Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Religion and terrorism.

The issue of terrorism in not new for our civilization, our society has dealt with various forms of terrorism since its existence. Most ugly form of terrorism is lethal violence and most people are mainly worried about this form but it can also manifest itself in so many other forms which are equally detrimental. There is no doubt that any form of terrorism is harmful to any society or civilization, so the issue is undoubtedly very important for all of us. Arms and weapons industry is huge player in this area and it has tremendous influence on how world politics works, the revenue of this industry depends on feeling of fear and there is nothing better than terrorism to infuse this feeling among people of any country. Any society suffering with any form of terrorism faces so many problems, first of all day to day lives of its citizens get severely affected in many ways, many people live in constant fear of attack and it creates feeling of insecurity and distrust among its people. All these things are not signs of healthy society, it affects its growth, stability and productivity. So it is always better to address problems related with any sort of terrorism on priority basis. Ignoring such problems doesn't make them to go away on its own, rather they can give rise to so many other problems which can be very damaging to any country in long run.

Many countries are battling with issue of terrorism in various forms for years. As a Indian I know very well how it feels living in a country to be at receiving end of terrorist attacks on regular basis. Situation in India is not as bad as many other places in world but still one can feel the heat of terrorism. People try to label these acts of terrorism in so many ways, many times these terrorist groups label themselves, they choose to attach themselves with certain region, ethnic group or religion to create an impression that they are fighting for that particular group's interests. In last few years there is increasing use of terms like 'Islamic terrorism' all over world or 'saffron terrorism' in India, these terms try to link some particular religion with terrorist activities happening in that region. The clear intention behind this is to indicate that that particular religion is used as a instrument to incite people to perform acts of terrorism. So the question we need to ask is, is there any relationship between religion and terrorism? Especially when almost everyone claims that all religions teach peace. It is widely claimed that all religions of world spread the message of love then what is the reason same religion can be so easily used to spread hatred and violence? Why are people willing to kill each other in name of religion? Is this a fault of those people or religion gives them this opportunity by being ambiguous about use of violence? Is it possible that in reality almost all religions teach both hate and love, peace and violence? When such extreme options are available people conveniently use the portions of that particular religion which suit to justify their actions of love as well as hatred. I know some of these questions might make some people feel very uncomfortable and might even offend some devoted followers of religion but nevertheless we need to ask them. It seems people very easily get offended nowadays, I was surprised to hear that nowadays speakers need to give a 'trigger warning' before saying anything which might be contrary to some popular belief or against some widely accepted ideology. But we need to ask these questions so that people can understand about this very complicated and sensitive issue. If there is any relationship between religion and terrorism, then we all should be very careful in dealing with some aspects of religion and factors which trigger violent reactions should be recognized and acknowledged.

Most of religions went through various forms of struggles to establish themselves in this world, one can easily read about these things on internet. Some religions originated in very hostile environment and have to fight some bloody wars to defeat their enemies and establish their presence, this might be the reason most of them include recommendations to fight against their opponents (enemies). These recommendations might have been necessary at that time as that was time of 'might is right' era but such conditions don't exist any more. Most of us now understand that all these religions are like personal hygiene products in market, the only difference is that in this case people get this product from their family or parents and few of them chose it on their on (by using the process called conversion). But the truth is that religion is a form of personal welfare product, so different people can have different religion as it suits their requirements and needs. Most of us also understand that there is no eminent threat for any ideology or religion in most of civil societies. Most civilized countries offer their residents right to practice any religion of their choice. If that particular religion is relevant and useful it will survive or it will fade away with time. This is a simple rule of market, if the product is popular and sellable it will stay in the market or something else will replace it. As I said most countries have freedom to practice any religion, some Islamic countries don't have this freedom and we all know the situation of human rights and freedom of expression in those countries. The point I am trying to make is, any violence propagated in name of some religion is in extreme danger is false and a lame attempt to justify some heinous acts.

The truth of matter is every religion needs to own things happening in its name, it doesn't matter if they are good, bad or ugly, they need to take responsibility of all these things. The propagators and followers of any religion can not be selective in owning things about their own religion. They just can't only talk about good things about their religion and purposely ignore all the bad and ugly things. This is called hypocrisy, where someone tries to project only one side of any issue or topic conveniently ignoring other sides as they don't suit their purpose. Historically every major religion has been used to commit autocracies on its non believers at some point of time. Some sort of discrimination was practiced or still is in practice against non believers of that religion. Rather than accepting these things various explanations are offered to justify these acts either directly or indirectly. This is one of the reason why most people don't hesitate to justify the violence in name of religion as almost everyone else has done it, so why not us. Many of these heinous acts get some sort of legitimacy if they are committed in name of some religion. Somehow every religion will have some group of followers who will justify such things and try to dominate the course of discussion.

It seems religion has capacity of generating extremely good or extremely bad emotions in people. Some groups use both these extremes to serve purpose of their organizations. But the problem is most followers are really prompt and attentive in praising good deeds by people from their own religion but at the same time they are little hesitant or completely reluctant to accept many bad acts committed in name of their religion. People need to owe these acts and criticize them in strongest terms if they consider them wrong. Strong criticism from outside of that religion helps to radicalize some of its supporters and it helps the purpose of groups who want to misuse that religion rather than acting as a deterrent. Because no religion takes criticism from outsiders very kindly, because it is assumed that outsiders will criticize mainly out of hatred or jealousy. This is why it very important that strong criticism should come from various factions of that same religion and then only any positive reform is possible. Until these things start happening on large scale it is quite possible religion will be vulnerable for misuse by some bigots from their own fraternity. Today it is Islam tomorrow it might be something else or even something new. Our social and political class need to show courage and commitment to address this problem without getting into a trap of not hurting anyone's sentiment type of mentality. Please remember that as most saints belong to some religion most terrorist also have religion and they clearly mention it. As religion owns these saints they need to own these terrorists also. It is a job of everyone to reject these violent ideas no matter from which holy book or religion they come from. Unless we all unite to fight this evil we will continue to suffer because of it, so lets unite and fight this evil of religious terrorism together.

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mother Teresa's miraculous path to sainthood.

When I read news that Mother Teresa is on her way to become a 'catholic saint' I couldn't decide whether to feel happy or sad. I am a great admirer of her amazing humanitarian work which she did in India, actually her work speaks for itself about her greatness so I wonder why at she needed these random incidents under the name of miracles to get the title of 'saint'. But it seems minimum two miracles are required to be declared as a ' catholic saint', I don't know on what basis they came up with the number '2' but that seems to be the criteria. So even after all that great work which she did most of her life it was not good enough to qualify her to become a saint, and now finally she got that dearly required second miracle recently which cleared her path to become a catholic saint. Seriously Pope? you need such trivial miracles which are random incidents to declare someone like her a saint? I am really stunned to know that church authorities need some sort of non reproducible random incidents (so called miracles) to declare some one like Mother Teresa a saint, can they please explain why her exemplary work is not enough for that? I feel astonished by all this because I come from part of India which has produced many sants (equivalent of saint in Marathi) like, Dyaneshwar, Tukaram, Eknath, Namdev and many others. Actually to be fair with Vatican people there are some miracles attributed to some of these people which according to me are clearly work of fiction. Miracles are attributed just to emphasize their greatness to some people who may not be able to understand the real importance of their work. That is why according to me all of them are not saints (or sant) because they did some miracles but for their scholarly work in the field of devotional literature or for carrying our social reforms or for their humanitarian work. May be many centuries back people needed some sort of stories about different miracles to understand greatness of someone but in today's world why we need such things which we know are some random incidents. Today how believable is the news that someone with multiple brain tumors prayed for her and got cured? Now for a moment let's assume if this is really true then is it recommended for all those who are undergoing medical treatments for similar disease to stop those treatments and start praying to her or someone else with a hope of getting cured. Why not? Actually people do pray whenever they are in deep trouble or when they see no other option, but they do this for their mental satisfaction there is no much logic behind this as there is no data to prove that prayers are as effective as medicines. But people do have habit of praying and many also feel that their prayers produce desired results, but there is no proof for these things. Such psychological boost can work in some cases, actually in medical science there is a phenomena called 'placebo effect' which describes similar scenario, but it is not considered as a miracle.

I wrote one blog post about her many months back, even though I am admirer of her work, her intentions and motives behind her work are questioned by some people. These questions or objections might sound unreasonable to her admirers like me but they are there and one needs to acknowledge their existence. But my main objections to this miracle thing is what is the real purpose behind attributing such lame miracles to anyone? Don't they know that such things spread superstition among people? Especially who are very vulnerable to believe in such things, for such people anything coming from their religious authority is absolute truth and this is dangerous. Superstition is already a huge problem in many societies and if powerful religious institutions like catholic church are instrumental in spreading these things so blatantly then I wonder how can a society can dream of getting rid of these social evils? This is absolutely disturbing to see that they are talking about miracles where some diseases are cured in today's scientific era. I absolutely have no problem with declaring Mother Teresa a saint or God or angel or whatever they want but I have strong objection over so called miracles attributed to her. This is very clear case of superstition, just because something happened randomly or can't be explained by current set of rules doesn't mean it is a miracle. Many years back things like lunar eclipses or even rainbows were considered as miracles by some God but not any more. I think it is a responsibility of any responsible and powerful institution not to propagate culture of falsehood or superstition. This drama of miracle is really not necessary for giving sainthood to a great lady like Mother Teresa, people like her or Baba Amte are great human beings. We can call them saint, god, angel just because of their amazing work, they don't need any crutches of miracles to prove their greatness. I hope people understand this and give well deserved respect to these individuals which they totally deserve because of their superb work not some stupid miracles.

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

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

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Friday, December 18, 2015

An open letter to Mr. Arvind Kejriwal

Dear Arvind,
It was really surprising if not shocking to see you shouting angry slurs at BJP and Mr. Modi on national TV and also on Twitter. I really thought that you learned your lesson from your horrible outburst against Mr. Prashant Bhushan and Mr. Yogendra Yadav which was revealed immediately after your party's spectacular victory in Delhi assembly elections. We all can disagree with others or even can have serious difference of opinion on various matters or criticize each other very strongly without being abusive towards each other. I was under impression that may be finally after that mistake you learned to control your anger, at least in public. But it seems that lesson is long forgotten and you are back with your 'angry young man' avatar that has very little regard for choice of words while expressing his anger. While I totally agree that you have complete freedom to say whatever you want, after all right of freedom of expression comes with right to offend, but I never imagined that you will take it to the extent that it will sound like abuse. Actually frankly speaking my love affair with AAP ended long back, immediately after you decided to resign after 45 days of your brief tenure as Delhi CM. I should accept that I was attracted to your political party because of presence of wide variety of people from different backgrounds who doesn't necessarily subscribe to single ideology. It was interesting mix and generated some hope in people like me that may be people with different set of ideas also can come together and create something unique which can challenge traditional norms of Indian politics and frankly you guys managed to do that but that phenomena was very short lived. I still agree that your party is somewhat different than all other political parties in India but that difference is very minute and the gap is narrowing day by day but yes, still it is somewhat different.

Now, coming back to this particular incident, I agree that Mr. Modi or central NDA government misused power in their hand, I also agree that CBI was in past and still today is used as a tool to settle political scores or strike political deals but didn't you already know all this? Didn't you voluntarily signed up for this job and willingly entered murky arena of Indian politics after knowing all these facts? Or somehow in your wildest dreams you believed that these things won't happen with you and your government? So assuming that even if Mr. Modi or BJP showed their cowardliness and vengeance why you didn't show your bravery and sensible nature by facing that inquiry or raid like any common citizen of India? Why you think that your office is so special that CBI needs to take your permission to raid it if it feels necessary to raid it? If according to you Mr. Modi is a coward  or a psychopath then who are you? A brave CM who is crying foul just for a single raid conducted on his office by using such a foul language? Or is it the case that as a CM of Delhi you expect to be treated differently that any other citizen of India? I still remember that you and your party as well as most leaders of other political parties saying on multiple occasions that you all are servants of common people of India, you all claim to be against that VIP culture. But it seems this rhetoric is only true until you guys win the election and get the power, once you are in government then you all become those VIPs, expect some special treatment and start behaving like a privileged entity. I think you know this but in case you forgot let me remind you that many common people in India go through some of these ordeals of search, raids and arrests everyday without creating any fuss. Many of them go through this as a consequences of their criminal acts but believe me many are put through this for no fault of theirs but they all go through this and believe that system will do justice with them. They believe in same system of which you are also a part now. They don't ask for any special treatment so what you have to say now about no VIP culture and everyone should be treated in same way? I know, that now you or your supporters will argue that then why X CM's office was not raided or why Y scam was not investigated, I agree that there is often selective investigations and political vendetta in some cases. People are raising questions about these things and these things should be questioned in proper way. But if there are some allegations against one of officers in your office then why not to investigate him? Why to put condition that first investigate X and Y and then come to me or my staff? What happened to claim that we will not tolerate any corruption or shelter any corrupt officer slogan, was it just a chunavi jumla, a gimmick to win election, just like your esteemed opponents use many of them in every election? If it was then at least let people know about it, so they stop wondering about such type of behavior.

If you expected that nothing of this sort will happen to you or your political opponents won't play any dirty games with you or they will deal with you using kid gloves or politics will change overnight then I must say that I am amazed by your naiveness. Similar things have happened in past and I am sure they will happen in future also but it is you who promised to bring the change of culture but it seems that now you are trying really hard to fit right into that same culture which you opposed as an activist. Your choice of words was not only wrong but I am sure it was disheartening for many of your supporters to hear these things coming out from you. Actually it puts you in same line of people who called you traitor, Pakistani agent, bhagoda, naxal and what not. I am sure you must be enjoying their company as you really tried very hard to be part of that group. Those people also used abusive language and displayed very low level of personal vendetta and what you did was no different. I would not have bothered to write this mail few months back but recently I thought your government was back on track as you guys were really doing some good work, initiating discussions about relevant topics like pollution and air quality of Indian cities but then this happened. It is like going 5 steps forward and 10 steps backward.

I don't want to make my letter too long and too preachy. I am also not nhere to tell you what to do and what not to do, I am sure you know this better than me. I just raised few questions and I hope you bother to think about them and introspect a little. Let me end by citing a very relevant example for you, I am sure you know the name of Sachin Tendulkar. This man is considered as a great cricketer not just for number of records he broke or runs he scored but also for his temperament, consistency, sincerity and on field behavior. There are equally great players as far as statistics or records are concerned from his era or eras before and after him, many of them are very aggressive not only while playing cricket but while dealing with other players on field and some of them are even known to be extremely abusive during their on field behavior. Sachin is different from all those because he never engaged in on field verbal spats, it is not that he was not abused or people never tried to intimidate him or he was not targeted, opponents from all teams tried all sort of tactics but this man answered all that not with his mouth but with his bat by scoring runs. His performance answered those insults thrown at him, no doubt that he needed to produce very high quality performance consistently to deal with on ground sledging and this is one of the reasons why I consider him as a great cricketer. I hope this example inspires you to do something different from now onward. Because it is of no use just to claim that you are different, you also need to show that in your behavior.

All the very best and take care.

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

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


Friday, December 11, 2015

Why it is important to understand enigma of american politics, Mr. Donald Trump.

One of the front runners for republican nomination for next year's presidential elections Mr. Donald Trump is creating lot of media waves all over the world since he entered in this election foray. Somehow he manages to grab headlines in print or electronic media because of his statements. Many of his statements have generated very polarized responses with some praising him for calling spade a spade (hinting that he is telling the truth even though he might sound politically incorrect) and some criticizing him for spreading hatred and negativity about certain sections of society (an outright racist or misogynist, etc.). But to everyone's surprise so far he managed to stay in news and also if polls are to be believed he is still one of the front runners to grab the republican presidential nomination. Many people are surprised by his high popularity as well as amount of support his statements are receiving. He is considered as an outsider in politics but definitely for all republican politicians out there he is giving run for their money. To some, this 'outsider' tag might seem like a big drawback, especially when you are planning to run for topmost political post of country but this guy has managed to turn this as his advantage by diffusing all attacks which question his political inexperience. I am not at all his supporter or for that matter any party supporter but I have a deep interest in politics and as a independent observer like to study various aspects of it, and there is no doubt that Mr. Donald Trump is one of the very interesting aspect of this US presidential race.

I live in Connecticut, which is considered as a loyal democrat state, that's why I was really surprised to hear when an old lady who was very devoted democrat supporter for many years said that may be this time she will vote for Mr. Trump if he gets the nomination. It is worthwhile to note that she didn't say that she will vote for some republican candidate but she specifically mentioned Mr. Trump. I guess the main reason behind this is people's frustration with politicians from both the parties, election after election they witnessed every presidential candidate making huge promises during their campaigns, they all promise to bring change and at the end nothing much changes on the ground. So it seems that people are increasingly getting frustrated with inability of seasoned politicians to deliver on their election promises. They are loosing their faith in them, for all those people Mr. Trump is like breeze of fresh air, someone who may not lie and cheat just to win an election. To add to this confidence Mr. Trump already declared that he is not going to take any money for his campaign from so called BIG donors who then try to influence the government. This is very well known fact, termed as 'lobbying'. The donations which these corporations make to various candidates from both major parties is sort of investment on their part to protect their own interests and it doesn't matter which candidate wins these corporate houses make sure to keep their goodwill with both major parties. There is nothing illegal or wrong in this practice as it is allowed by law and everything is declared for everyone to see, so one should not blame these corporations for this as system allows them to do this. They are just using legal way to protect their business interests, it is duty of politicians to make sure that they stay on their course and protect people's interest first. Mr. Trump's controversial statements about illegal immigrants or about Syrian refugees or Muslim immigrants are very insensitive and controversial but I think he know that people will relate with his statements as most politicians don't even dare to address many of these problems because they are very sensitive. Many of seasoned politicians don't want to touch some of these topics because they don't want to get into trouble, they don't want to hurt their vote bank, and because of this attitude many of them just refuse to accept that these problems even exist. This is very wrong, those problems or concerns are there and people need some answers. Why can't democrats explain that if you legalize current illegal immigrants then how it doesn't mean that you are actually encouraging more illegal immigration? Just because people who broke the immigration law are in millions, is it OK to pardon their illegal act? Suppose if government does that today then what is the guarantee that after 10 or 20 years country will not be facing similar situation, and then what to do? Issue another legal pardon and legalize all peaceful illegal immigrants? What is the process followed to make sure that all refugees entering US need genuine help? The point I am trying to raise here is, people have many questions like these and politicians or political parties who are willing to legalize illegal immigrants or want to take more refugees are not able to explain properly why they want to do that. They some how are not able to explain the logic and rational behind their decision clearly. This creates confusion and builds resent. Any opposition to these issues can not be dismissed just based on partisan politics. This should not be projected as democrat vs republican battle. Mr. Trump is not even seasoned republican guy still he is getting so much support, we need to ask, why??

I think one major reason being Mr. Trump's popularity is that there was apparent disconnect between republican voters and politicians, and Mr. Trump is trying to bridge that gap. His ability to say some things which any traditional politician won't even dream of saying it on public platform is paying him some dividends. We all know that many times in politics political parties try to make use of same issues in every election. Actually many political parties are interested in keeping many issues alive because those issues generate votes for them in every election, I have seen it happening in India for decades, in US situation is much better compared to India but these things happen here also. I guess people think that Mr. Trump can challenge this and change this, whether he will get elected or do it, or not is different issue but at least he is projecting himself as 'no nonsense' person and many people are buying that. Many of his controversial statements are highly flawed and clearly inflammatory. They are clearly targeted to make use of feeling of uneasiness in people's mind. I guess he is willing to take the risk and he thinks that rewards are high if it works in his favor. I am sure he also knows that it can backfire on him but then if he is also like rest of politicians then why the heck people should chose him? He wants to set him apart from the rest and I guess so far his strategy seems to be working. Pressure and obligation to be politically correct all the time has made many politicians very defensive, they hesitate to attack any problem aggressively because of fear that it might disturb their core constituency. Fear of being sidelined or hammered by witch hunters in press and public who are just looking for one loose statement to finish someone's political career is very real and huge among all public figures. Mr. Trump seem to be immune of this fear and it seems many people are appreciating this. 

One can agree or disagree with Mr. Trump's statement or even dismiss him as publicity hungry business man or call him insignificant candidate who is not going to make it to finish line of presidential candidacy but there is no doubt that this man has created lot of waves in political arena. If it is good or bad only time will tell, but I think people should ponder over the fact that why is he getting so much support? May be it will help us understanding many issues which are stuck in deadly partisan politics in such a way that it seems they can not be resolved no matter how long both parties try. But there is no doubt that this is dangerous path to achieve power, this is not sustainable approach. You can not create rift in society and then expect peace and unity. Very similar thing happened in India last year. Current Indian prime minister Mr. Modi made use of huge vacuum created by indecisive leadership and inability of politicians to address some real problems like corruption, black money, poor infrastructure, communal tension, etc. He rose the charts of popularity index day by day by making many statements and promises which seasoned politicians in India hesitate to make. He said whatever people wanted to hear, whether it was about taking on Pakistan or China or about black money or so called pink revolution or about dynastic rule. He used all rhetoric and theatrics, never apologized for any of his mistakes or never minced his words while attacking someone and it all worked in his favor. Voters of India saw a ray of hope in him and gave him an unprecedented mandate, but since coming into power he is struggling to clear his image as divisive leader. He is finding it hard to rein in some elements of his own party who totally believe that its OK to make inflammatory statements if it suits them without worrying much about its consequences. Almost a year and half has passed but current government is still finding it very hard to pass some key reform bills in parliament in spite of having clear majority as opposition is just refusing to cooperate. It seems it is easy to win elections by polarizing the society but then it is not easy to neutralize that polarization when you want to run the country. While filling the vacuum created by indecisive political leadership Mr. Trump is setting up same dangerous precedence in US which Mr. Modi did in India. Their intentions might be good, they might be sincerely trying to do something good for their country, we should give both these leaders a benefit of doubt but then the method they are using has some serious side effects which no one can ignore. Today he is targeting Muslims, what if tomorrow he says same thing about Hindus or Africans? What is guarantee that his supporters won't target other minority immigrants who according to them are taking up american's jobs? Polarized or divided society can go in any direction, it is very difficult to predict. Purposely cultivated hatred can manifest in several ways, it is very dangerous to play with this fire. Divide and rule is the best strategy if you just want to rule any society without having any concern about its welfare, many rulers used this trick very successfully in past successfully to exploit some regions for their own benefit. Those societies are still grappling with problems like lack of trust and communal tension. It is very tempting strategy as it seems to provide immediate short term gains, many political parties and leaders still use this in India. Is Mr. Trump want to see similar situation in US? We can find faults with other methods and ways used by other politicians or political parties, policies like minority or majority appeasement are also not good but clear agenda of divisiveness or hatred is the most dangerous among all. So I hope people try to understand what's really going on, I hope even Mr. Trump will realize that he don't need to make such divisive statements to stay in limelight or ahead in polls, after all no election win should be more important than unity and prosperity of nation. Please note one thing here, I am not at all objecting to right of Mr. Trump to say those things, he has complete freedom to say those things and others can criticize him for that as much as they want. I am just trying to discuss merits and demerits of his approach. I hope each one of us understands this and think over these things logically, no matter in which country we reside, which party or person we support.

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

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Chennai floods and story of unplanned development in Indian cities.

Entire world watched floods of Chennai on various news channels, international coverage was not as prominent as it should have been but it was somewhere there in news. Even most of Indian media responded very late to report this natural calamity with attention and sincerity it deserves. There can be various reasons to this, may be they thought that useless debate on tolerance and intolerance going on in parliament was more important, may be they thought Chennai is not Mumbai or Delhi so not many people will be interested in that coverage or may be they had no clue that it was that serious, so we don't know what was the reason but national media was very late to show up on the scene, but finally they did show up. There were reports of severe damage to people's homes and other personal property, day to day lives of thousands of people got affected in a way they never imagined. Some scenarios were terrible and beyond imagination. My few relatives live in Chennai, so from them I know how bad was the situation and how people managed to survive mostly by helping each other. Most of the time government machinery is either unprepared for such massive scale disaster or it gets crushed under the huge demand vs less supply scenario. There were also various stories of common people, celebrities and rescue worker's heroics, their brave acts during these moments of crises which managed to save many lives and helped many in distress. No doubt that these stories need to be highlighted but they should not overshadow the real reasons behind this man made natural disaster. 

We all saw what happened and how people are fighting to overcome the problems caused by this disaster but we also need to ask the important question, why this happened and who is to blame? We all know that we can not control rain, drought or any other natural calamities like earth quakes or tsunamis but can we take some preventive or precautionary measures to minimize the damage and reduce casualties? Can we be better prepared for such type of incidents so that they don't create havoc in people's lives? If yes, then why any government in India whether it is a state or central makes it their priority? To understand why I am saying this please go and visit any growing city in India like Pune, Bengaluru or any other city, its name is not important and observe what is going on in the name of development. It is literally unplanned construction on massive scale, people are building something on each and every vacant land legally or illegally. Not only builders builders but people, various institutions are occupying each and every available piece of land and constructing something on it, it almost feels like these cities are on steroids as far as construction is concerned. Land prices are skyrocketing in each and every city, town or village where even little bit of wind of development has reached. People are selling and buying land and apartments like stocks in stock market, prices fluctuate daily, there are land millionaires who became rich just because they had huge ancestral land which is worth more than they ever imagined. These things are good for economy of any country and its citizens if they happen in planned way but there is absolutely no planning in all this, real estate boom just happened and it exploded. There was no time for any planning and no one was even interested in it and unfortunately no one even now intend to correct this mistake. Actually I lived in one such very crowded neighborhood of Pune for most of my life so I know first hand how these neighborhoods come into existence and grow without any legal sanction or planning. They are so crowded that in many places even ambulance or firetruck can't reach if there is any emergency, so just imagine what might happen in case of flood or earthquake. The amazing part is all these neighborhoods originate and flourish right under watch of government and elected members of legislature of every political party, there are no exceptions to this. These people and corresponding government departments purposely ignore this dangerous situation until it becomes unmanageable problem, there are thousands of colonies like these in each and every city of India. This is not development but this is like having a ticking time bomb which is just waiting for some natural catastrophe to explode. 

So why so much of unplanned development is allowed when they could have chosen to develop city in very planned and constructive way? Two main reason come to my mind, first is pressure of growing population which was and still is migrating heavily towards cities in search of better living and second one is rampant corruption in government offices and political parties are part of this. Illegal construction is massive in all these cities and it is a huge problem. There are colonies where thousands of people live with hundreds of homes, all of them constructed illegally. Does anyone knows how to manage this mess? People already occupied dry lakes, shrunken river beds, hills, canals, even they covered up drainage lines and built their residence on top of it. So whenever there is significant amount of rainfall then where will this extra water go? It has to flood neighborhoods, enter people's homes and damage their properties, can we just blame excess rain for this problem? This water has no where to go as all its natural paths are blocked by massive construction or this so called development. We saw this happening in Mumbai, Delhi and now in Chennai but did we ever bothered to take any steps to correct these mistakes? Did we ask ourselves why this is happening so frequently in major cities? Is nature is screwing us up or we are paying the price for screwing up the nature? Unless and until we ask these questions we are not going to find solution to any of these problems, next time it might be some different city or state but same scenario of destruction and loss of life might be repeated.

Thankfully natural disasters like earthquakes or floods or hurricanes don't strike us every day or every year but that doesn't mean we should not be cautious or prepared for them. Because when they strike and we are not prepared then loss is catastrophic, tragedy is humongous. We can not control the occurrence of the rain or earthquake but I think we can definitely prepare ourselves to minimize the damage. I hope these floods initiate some discussion for need of planned development in Indian cities. I hope people and governments don't forget this tragedy so easily and move on as if nothing has happened. Because if they do this then we all are waiting for another Chennai to happen and I don't think anyone of us want to witness this again.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Circus called tolerance and intolerance debate.

Now a days there are heated discussions going on in India on the issue of tolerance and intolerance. Every news channel is having some panel discussion to decide whether India is getting more intolerant or not, on social media some people are busy in proving that intolerance is on rise and some are fiercely contesting this claim by abusing them for raising this issue. The issue has become so important that it is being discussed in parliament also! I personally value quality of tolerance a lot and have written couple of posts related with this topic, one is about why we need tolerant society and another is about my own experience of intolerance in Indian society. Now let's come back to this topic of debate over this issue of intolerance (or tolerance), if you listen to most of these debates then any sensible person can easily understand how misplaced these people's expectations are about tolerance and intolerance. Somehow tolerance is equated with complete acceptance or no objection or submissive type of behavior and intolerance is equated with any objection or strong comment or dissent against your own views. So if I object to anyone's statement then I am being intolerant, if I say anything against any religion or person then I am intolerant, if I don't react to abusive statement then I am tolerant, if I don't express any dissent about anything then I am tolerant. Basically, either you are with me or against me, there is no middle ground. Also there is huge confusion about where 'freedom of expression' fits into all this? I don't even know if these people know that there is something called freedom of expression. So first question everyone should try to ask is, do we accept that people have freedom of expression or not?

Now let's proceed in step wise manure as this topic seems to be very complicated. If there is a freedom of expression, (with some reasonable restriction like no incitement of violence), then anyone can say anything as long as it is not a incitement to engage in violent act. So they need to agree on this first, if people have freedom of expression then they can say express their opinion. That opinion can be anything, like some people should leave this country or I don't feel comfortable about current atmosphere or whatever. So any Yogi, Sadhvi, minister, writer, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, atheist, actor or whoever it may be can say whatever they want and no one should challenge their right to say those things as they are not doing anything unconstitutional or illegal but just using their basic right of freedom of expression. Making any statement or agreeing or disagreeing with someone doesn't make anyone tolerant or intolerant. It all depends on our actions and behavior towards each other, it depends on our attitude towards person with whom we disagree, it depends on how we react to those statements with which we agree or disagree. Just look at the reactions from both sides and you will understand what I am talking about and why I call this debates a big 'circus'. I personally have no objection over any Yogi, minister or actor's expressing their opinions, they have total right to do that. I cannot question that right. I may or may not agree with their statement, I may have very strong objections to contents of some those statements but that person has equal rights to express him or her like me or anyone else have. But it seems people don't understand this simple thing, most of the reactions are like, how dare he or she say this? He or she should be punished or kicked out of country for saying this or let's boycott them for expressing their opinion. I mean common, at least first try to understand what that person said, debate and discuss that topic in detail and then come to any conclusion. But it looks like people are more interested in delivering verdicts of guilty or non guilty rather than resolving the issues and having any meaningful discussions. Atmosphere is getting so polarized that it seems there is no possibility of any middle ground where people can agree to disagree and move on. Even in parliament the discussion is well below the required level, it is not that I expected it to be any different that whatever is going on in TV studios but if you are putting some circus then at least make it somewhat entertaining. I guess recent protests or even this so called 'award wapasi' movement was actually to protest against increase of physical violence which is ultimate form of intolerance. I don't this it has anything to do with change of government or who is PM or who is president. Government should have taken these protests in right spirit rather than taking it personally and trying to dismiss them altogether and thereby giving them lot of media coverage. Addressing concerns of these people might have stopped this issue from becoming a national time pass. I also don't know why people complaining about intolerance want to paint the picture as if today in India you can not say anything against current government, it seems both sides are only interested to go to any extreme just to prove their point.

Tolerance or intolerance shows in our behavior. Tolerant person or society or country don't have to say that we are tolerant or give any proofs to prove that, their behavior is enough at the same time intolerant society or person don't have to accept that they are intolerant their behavior is ultimate proof of who they are. Many times our actions speak louder than our words, so I think people should focus on their actions and let those actions speak for themselves. I don't this this shouting about any correction in behavior is going to bring any desired change, each person should correct their behavior and automatically it will bring change in society or country. I hope both sides understand this otherwise this issue will become another never ending topic of Indian politics like secularism and communalism.

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

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