Saturday, March 26, 2016

Drawbacks of having politically polarized society.

Political polarization is on the rise all over the world. In many countries, especially in USA and India, we can feel that the political rift between major political parties is widening day by day. I don't think this is very desirable development. Political differences are part of any healthy democratic set up, there is nothing wrong to debate fiercely any topic but when it takes form of strong animosity then it not only creates a very politically charged environment for politically relevant issues, but also very trivial things turn into a big political battle at all levels. A lot of energy and resources are wasted arguing about some trivial issues. This also creates extreme bitterness among general public who feel compelled to fight these battled to support their political organization, ultimately this leads to serious political deadlock. As a result of all this many important issues get sidetracked or they get stuck between political deadlocks as no party is interested in a compromise because of fear of hurting the sentiments of their core supporters. Whereas political opposition, debates, discussions and arguments are necessary, political polarization is not a very productive atmosphere for any country. It is impossible to achieve any substantial progress in such environment. We can easily feel the effect of this in both the countries where many important issues are stuck in serious political deadlock, all we see is an endless blame game.

Why too much political polarization is bad for any country? How it affects its population and governance? These are the questions we need to ask to understand the detrimental effect of this phenomena on any progressive society. Any political ideology has some core principles on which they are not willing to compromise at all, that is why we have different political groups. Many times these issues are part of basic political identity of those political parties, this is why we give them labels like leftist, rightist or centrist, conservative or liberal, socialist or capitalist, etc. There are many issues on which bipartisan collaboration is possible as most (in US both, Republicans and Democrats) political parties agree on some of these topics which are not part of their core political agenda. But in politically polarized atmosphere supporters and leaders of these political parties create a war like situation where each and every issue, no matter how trivial or relevant becomes a matter of serious conflict and political prestige. They become more interested in defeating their opponents at any cost rather than working in collaboration to achieve something better for their country. Any sensible person can agree that this is not a very desirable situation. We all should recognize that political opposition is very necessary, it is an integral part of any democratic setup. We all should not only expect that alternate views and ideas exist but should create an atmosphere where people are not scared to express their views. Ability to express dissent is a very important aspect of any democratic setup, if we curb this for any reason then this is bound to hamper progress of any society, country or organization. Health of any society can be measured by the extent it allows free flow of ideas. When there are incidents where people get arrested under charge of sedition just for delivering some speech or political rally of some leader gets disrupted just because some people don't agree with views expressed by that leader then definitely it is matter of concern. When public perception takes precedence over law of land then democracy starts getting suffocated. Political opponent should not be treated as enemy of nation, specially when you are in power. Some people in US many not agree with many views expressed by Mr.Trump but he has right to express them like anyone else. US constitution and law of land gives him that right, one can express disagreement in strongest possible words but to disrupt his rallies or try to shut him up or his supporters is not the right way to express the disagreement. Indians should be proud of their heritage of argumentative traditions, but somehow today people seem to be more interested in settling scores against each other rather than discussions and debates. Let's go back to healthy political debates, we should debate and discuss each and very thing but in a civilized matter. Let's try to bring back sensibility, rational, common sense and patience back on discussion tables, this is the only way to progress.

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

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Why homemakers don't get employment benefits?

Household management is not a easy task, it takes lot of time, efforts and dedication. Apart from regular and stable income to support various needs and activities family also needs a person who can take care of many other day to day responsibilities. Many times management of these things can test person's limits as these tasks vary in their nature and difficulties, tasks like cooking, house cleaning, making sure everything is at its place, taking care of guests, etc. not only require various skills but they are physically exhausting and time consuming. Anyone who has tried their hand on this work will agree with me when I say that it is not easy to manage entire household single handedly. But this work doesn't generate any official income, no one gets paid for taking care of their own family members. Household work, no matter how important it is doesn't generate any official salary or other benefits for the person who does it for their own family. Official income tax returns of all families where only one partner is officially employed and other partner is a homemaker contains income details of that 'employed' person even if that return is filed jointly by both partners. I always wondered why work of a person who is a full time homemaker is not valued in monitory terms as much as other type of works? Why there is no mechanism to attach a monetary value to work of countless housewives and househusbands? In most of countries including many developed countries this work force mostly consists of women who tirelessly work towards welfare of their family, some of them even sacrifice their alternate careers to take care of their family, some of them have to do this work even after doing a full time regular job. But it is not good to see that there is growing trend where both partners try to share equal responsibilities towards house work specially in cases where both have a full time job. If the same work is performed by someone outside family like maid or nanny they get paid but this work has no monitory value if it is performed by some family member. Women get lot of praise, they are hailed as epitomes of sacrifice, kindness, dedication and love for taking care of their families but beyond such emotional lip service this very important work doesn't receive any recognition. It is not enough to say that this is a great service towards their family or value of this type of work can not be measured in monitory terms because these workers also should get rights and benefits like other workers. Someone needs to speak for their rights like they speak for all other workers. They are not organized that doesn't mean they don't have a voice. There is no retirement benefit or social security or any other benefit offered to these people which comes with most of full or part time jobs, why? If we don't see this as a problem then we should reexamine our understanding about value added work and try to change its definition if necessary. We have neglected these people for very long time, just because they don't complain about this discrimination we should not allow this malpractice to go on, this work needs official recognition to empower millions of homemakers. Homemakers and their work is very critical for betterment of our society, it is equally important as any other type of work therefore should be entitled for compensations and benefits like any other type of work.

I understand that this can introduce lot of technical and legal difficulties but our society has dealt with more complicated and sensitive issues successfully, so I don't think that this issue is so complicated that we can't come up with some practical solution for this. Why don't these women (as well as men) can claim half of their family income amount as their own wages in joint income tax returns? Why can't they get half share of the social security and medicaid tax so that they can generate their own benefits rather than depending on benefits as a spouse? It is unfair for them to depend on their spouse's social security benefits when they also work equally hard to take care of their families. These people offer great amount of support to their partners so that they can work out of home.

Actually one may ask, why it is necessary to attach a monitory value to house work? Very short and quick answer to this can be, simply because it is also a work, rather very important work which requires lot of effort, time and energy, so it should be treated as any other type of value generating work. Lack of any monitory value has generated a very wrong perception about this work, so wrong that this work is not at all considered as value generating work. If someone says that his or her partner is a homemaker, then it is assumed that they don't work or they are not employed or they are stay home mom or dad, which is a very wrong perception. The main reason for this perception is lack of any monitory value attached with this work. We need to change this perception and attaching some monitory value to this work might help in changing it. The statement, "I am a stay home mom/ dad" doesn't actually reflect the amount of efforts that persona takes to maintain that home. I request all concerned agencies to look into this matter with all sincerity and try to come up with some practical way to remove this shortcoming. For centuries this work did not get its deserved due and if we can do something to change it it will be a great achievement. It will definitely strengthen our social fabric, this will also bring dignity and respect for all these dedicated homemakers which they totally deserve.  

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

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

Friday, March 11, 2016

Stop spreading chemophobia.

Chemophobia is on the rise all over the world, there is total misunderstanding about role and effect of chemicals in our lives. Misleading marketing gimmicks like 'all natural' or 'chemical free.' are used very casually. The major problem with these tag lines is that not only they are devoid of any truth, but they are also wrong impression about chemicals in general. Use of such phrases creates a perception in consumer's mind that consuming any 'chemical' is harmful for their health and products of these so called 'chemical free' brands don't contain any harmful chemicals. To a large extent all this propaganda and advertisement is responsible for creating irrational fear towards chemicals and creating a villainous image of industries dealing with chemicals. But in reality chemicals are integral part of our day to day lives. Without chemicals we don't even exist, chemical compounds called 'amino acids' are basic building blocks of our body, they are essential for our existence. Somehow the buzz word 'chemical free' is becoming the new standard for safety standards of any product we use. This whole propaganda is very misleading and I am amazed that even some scientists are contributing to popularize this myth 'chemical free means safe' . In its true sense nothing is chemical free, even water is a chemical, air which we breathe is a mixture of different gases with nitrogen and oxygen as its major components, so it is a misnomer to call anything 'chemical free.' 

One can definitely classify chemicals as safe chemicals and harmful chemicals. There are synthetically made and naturally available chemicals. Synthetic doesn't always mean harmful and natural doesn't always means safe. Many useful naturally available chemicals are synthesized in laboratory, as many times it is not possible to get the required quantity from natural resources, so even some chemicals with natural origin are produced in labs by using synthetic methods for commercial use and hence can be called as natural in origin but synthetic by production. There are many natural chemicals which we consume daily, like water, air, some vitamins, carbohydrates and sugars. These are perfectly safe and useful chemicals for our body if consumed in the right quantities. At the same time there are many synthetic chemicals in the form of medicines which we consume as per requirement, they all help us to fight against some life threatening conditions. Some synthetic compounds like pain killers also help to overcome pain or we use them as cosmetics. Even useful chemicals like medicines should be taken in prescribed doses as over consumption can create some serious problems. The fact is, even medicines which are supposed to life savers can be lethal if overdosed or consumed without need. Actually overdose of anything can create problems for us, if we eat only one type of food in excess it can cause problems to our health, in most cases it is the dose which is the deciding factor. There are various chemical products like plastics, paints, polymers, etc. which we use in our day to day lives, many people don't even have a clue about the chemical composition of these products but still most of us use it. Many of these products have become an integral part of pour lives. So if we look around, we can easily notice that chemicals are present everywhere around us, our lives are heavily dependent on them. I fail to understand the real purpose behind this organized effort to spread extreme aversion against chemicals. This is not only misleading but also a wrong thing to do as far as public health is concerned. Why don't all concerned companies and agencies try to educate people about different type of chemicals and their effect on human health rather than trying to demonize all chemicals? Chemophobia is misleading and doesn't serve any purpose.

Prof. Michelle Francl has rightly expressed effect of this chemophobic culture in her quote, "Chemical has become a synonym for something artificial, adulterated, hazardous, or toxic." Actually, we should strive to get a clear understanding about hazardous and non hazardous chemicals and their effects on our lives. I understand that it may not be an easy task for everyone, but that is why it is necessary to spread more awareness about different types of chemicals we use. We can make use of new technologies and social platforms to spread this public awareness. It is wrong to spread irrational fear about all chemicals. I don't know who came up with misleading terms like 'chemical free' or 'all natural' for processed food products? Let's get educated about the chemicals and try to make well informed decisions, this is good for us as well as all chemical companies.

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

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

Saturday, March 5, 2016

This amazing journey continues...

Four years ago, my first post was published on this blog. I never imagined that I will continue writing regularly for so long but with your support and encouragement I did manage to do that and here we are celebrating fourth anniversary of this blog. This journey is one of the most joyful and rewarding experiences of my life. I want to thank all readers for making this experience so special. My special thanks to people who share their views by posting their comments, you all make this blog more meaningful and please continue to share your views here or on whatever platform you feel appropriate as they all are important and valuable. I feel it is important for all of us to share our views so that various issues and problems get debated and discussed. Debates and discussions are important instruments of any democratic society which aspires for continuous progress. I guess we all agree that our world is still facing so many serious problems and only we can solve them by sharing our ideas which might result in some solution. We all might propose radically different ways to solve some of these problems but unless we debate and discuss about it we will never know which one is the best or most amicable way to tackle these issues. So please be vocal about your opinions and participate in discussions whenever possible. I agree that there is so much chaos on social media where many times discussion turns into some sort of street fight with lot of mud slinging and personal insults. It gets so bad that many times it is impossible to have any sensible discussion on those forums. We should not get discouraged by such scenario, rather this is why we need to generate more forums where one can have sensible and rational discussions. We need to understand difference between discussion and argument, let's try to focus more on constructive discussions rather than verbal spats. There is nothing wrong to engage in argument as many times it can be fun and might help us to hone our argumentative skills but we should be also aware that rarely they contribute towards generating any meaningful outcome. 

I am sure readers must have noticed reduced frequency of my posts during last year or so, I did that purposely to avoid being repetitive and also as I got busy in some other things. I am passionate about certain issues but I understand that it will be very annoying if I keep on writing about those issues every week, that doesn't mean I will stop writing about them but I will try to do in a way where I don't look very repetitive. I am also not interested in commenting about each and every sensational topic which is sensationalized beyond limits by various media houses. Many of these things don't deserve my attention and time. Now a days every other day something sensational erupts out of media houses all over the world. The battle for high TRPs and to attract maximum traffic on their websites has forced these many news organizations to present each and every news in such a sensational way that even trivial incidents generate hysterical public response. I think people need to relax little and think rationally before reacting so hysterically about such news items. Social media and various other online platforms have given us great opportunity and tremendous power to share our opinions, we all need to make proper use of this opportunity. I am sure as people get acquainted with merits and demerits of these discussions they will slowly become more mature and start using these platforms to their advantage. Once we pass through transition phase and people learn how to use and not misuse these things then many of these side effects will wane away. Then this phenomena will be more beneficial to our society, it will also help various governing bodies to feel the pulse of public opinions and act accordingly. This marvelous technological revolution has also given opportunity to many writers to express their ideas freely without being dependent on any publisher to reach readers. I believe this has definitely helped to break the monopoly of those few gifted and powerful personalities who used to rule the opinion world as only they used to have access to very limited resources available back then like news papers and book publishing houses to express their opinions. I think this is one of the biggest changes social media has brought in the field of opinion exchange. One can debate about pros and cons about this changed ecosystem but this has definitely created a huge shift in the way public opinion is formed and used in today's world.

Please continue your support and encouragement, and also please continue to express your opinions. Let's debate and discuss. Let's try to fix what is wrong and try to preserve what is right. Let's ask questions and try to find answers. Let's learn to agree to disagree sometimes and let's also learn to respect everyone's right to express their opinions.

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