Want to jump the ATM queues and withdraw cash immediately? STRIP!

A transwoman in Delhi took off her shirt in ‘frustration’ yesterday after standing in a long queue to an ATM for an endless period of time, since the Government of the country theatrically announced banning of the highest denomination of the currency one day, without proper planning of its after-effects. Moments later, a female police constable reaches the scene, makes her ‘cover up’, ‘takes her away’, and helps her to withdraw money from another ATM – before everyone else in line before her. *facepalm*

Yes, you read that right. There’s a lesson in there for all us women who have been sanding under the sun for three hours to withdraw Rs 2,500 daily – STRIP! (Sorry, men, your nipples aren’t powerful enough that one flash, and it will destroy the public order, for the police to personally escort you to the front of the queue.)

On a serious note, two problems here. First, I have a feminist issue with this. Why is taking off a shirt by someone considered ‘protest’ enough for police-interference? I believe it was not the protest, but the means of the ‘protest’ which got someone to alert the police. She did not harm any civilian life like the Jat protests in Haryana, she was not sitting on a dharna blocking the roads, she did not even go on a hunger strike with danger to her life. What, I believe, the moral custodians of Indian culture will say she did do, was ‘morally corrupt the society’. But hey, I am only guessing here.

The first and the last time I saw this happening in India was during the Manorama rape case in Manipur when the magnitude of the crime and its protest were ten-fold — so comparing the two is like comparing oranges to apples.

And is the only way to “maintain public order” is by letting that one person withdraw cash? She protested “against the shortage of money all over the country,” according to an FT report. How does this solve the issue? And what message is the police giving? It is making mockery of all the other people who are standing in line like civilians despite some dying during it.

So the police is essentially like that teacher or parent who gives the goodies to a spoiled kid, because he creates a scene – while the other kid wonders if he is too decent. And if life is fair.

Free internet and internet censorship: a setup of growth and checks

Two news made headlines almost at the same time: the pulling down the video of the controversial Roast from the Youtube channel AIB after an First Information Report(FIR) was filed against its creators at Pune Police station; and the launch of the Internet.org android app in India, by Facebook and Reliance Communications, which aims to provide basic internet access to people who aren’t yet connected for free.

The internet penetration of India goes from being 0.53% in 2000 to 19.19% in 2014. As the internet’s reach and impact increases, so does the number of cases of internet censorship. The FIRs are generally filed under Section 67 (A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which states that any information sent via a computer-like device which is grossly offensive or has menacing character is punishable. The faulty Information Technology Act which was passed off in a hurry, and have misleading terms without proper explanation can be misused.

Not only do the movies and books banned in the country are easily accessible on torrent and other file sharing websites whose servers lie outside the Indian domain, the content uploaded on the internet itself have started to come under scrutiny. According to Google’s Transparency Report, the Indian government asked the company to remove content 68 times between the first half of 2011 itself, and 51% of those requests were at least partially complied with.

The growth of the internet and ease of access, and ease of upload, obviously needs to be checked by laws and regulations, but a better alternative than banning content altogether has to be figured out. An age bar, as suggested by actor Amir Khan, could be an alternative. Similar to ‘adult’ and ‘parental guidance’ ratings for movies, a similar alternative should be introduced for the internet content as well. Though, how can such a setup be implemented in cyber space is questionable. In the end, it comes down to parental observance and individual moral stance.

But, while we talk about not banning questionable content altogether, the Indian government has gone as far as banning the websites itself on which the content in question was uploaded. In July, 2014 about 219 file-sharing and torrent websites were blocked. And if nothing else works, the Indian government has the power to use the internet kill switch. In Vadodara, Gujarat the state government (and not the Central Government) shut down the internet for 3 days in September last year due to communal clashes between two communities, and that too, without prior formal announcement.

Major reasons given for censorship in India:

  1. Criticism of politicians and government, termed “offensive”
  2. Demeans Indian culture
  3. Incites religious or communal violence/ “hate speech”

In the midst of aristocratic censorship that has been practiced lately in the country, the AIB Roast video criticism and controversy is only expectable (but not acceptable). The AIB team has even apologized, though only in their sarcastic style, which makes it all the more better!

Expensive gifts to top talent: the good and the bad

Infosys, the major software services firm recently gifted 30,000 of its top staff with iPhone 6 to stem attrition. In October last year, Hari Krishna Exports, a diamond polishing company in Surat, Gujarat gifted 500 cars, 200 apartments and diamond jewellery all amounting to 500m rupees to its loyal and top performers. 130 employees of HCL Tech were awarded a Mercedes or an all-expenses paid trip abroad as a token of appreciation.

Rewarding the employees by compensation, benefits, recognition and appreciation is a business technique to maintain healthy relations, keeping the employees satisfied, and retaining talent in a company in the resurging competitive market. The kinds of bonus and benefits have undergone a change within the last few years from the traditional to the modern, from non-monetary to tech savvy expensive gifts.

A ‘thank you’ email, appreciating an employee in a meeting, or electing them to a wall of fame used to do the deal earlier. Such un-monetary rewards were task-specific or relied on an employee’s performance in the past few months.

However, with the evolvement of the monetary gifts, only those employees who had been in a company for many years are targeted, and their performance over a long period of time evaluated. This leads to lagging of a person’s interest in work if his past performance has not been satisfactory, and may lead to jealousy among the non-receivers of such awards. Such expensive gifts are possible to be given only to a limited number of people, in comparison to benefits like medical coverage, leave off from work, flexible leaves, training and tuition benefits, which could be enjoyed by a majority of the employees.

Despite all the debate, the chairman of Hari Krishna Exports, Savibhai Dholakia’s comments- “we created the hunger among the employees- they work better, they take home better incentives,” speaks of one good thing about the new kinds of rewards- atleast a part of the profit a company gains is spent on the people who worked hard to make that happen. Also, a long-term performance evaluation seeks out consistent performers who work above average as a habit, rather than for the sake of rewards (as is the case with monthly recognition programmes).

The companies need to make sure that they are not neglecting other workers who work equally hard, and that they are able to recognise and appreciate their efforts as well.

India’s future: a child who eats and reads

It is the year 2000. I am 7 years old. The clock strikes 2.15pm. The school bell rings, I run home, and eat the just-prepared food of my choice.

The number of malnourished people worldwide is just under 1 billion people- the population of the US, Canada and EU combined.

If I would have come across the above fact that time in 2000, I wouldn’t have believed it. Now the stark reality is glaring at us, and it is our duty to fight it. Closer to home, India herself houses a quarter of those hungry millions. And 3000 children die daily due to illness related to poor diet in this economically developing country.

Mid-day meal in Sirohi, Rajasthan - Credits: ganuullu (Creative Commons)

Mid-day meal in Sirohi, Rajasthan – Credits: ganuullu (Creative Commons)

What are the two prominent things in my childhood memory? School and food. There is a deep connection between food and education, a full stomach and progress. The reason the country spent millions on Food Security Bill comes as no surprise. According to World Food Programme, there is enough food for everyone in the world. We should help food and nutrition reach the people in need so that India progresses as a whole. Let’s see if we can bring back the proud moment of calling ourselves Indians when we were kids long ago, oblivious of the gripping poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

What can you do to help the economically under-privileged?

  • As a tech-savvy youngster, you could donate generously for the mid-day meal at school for children at the click of a mouse.
    Or reach out to other NGOs that are working for the cause you are passionate about, may it be education of a girl child, helping poor on the roadside survive Delhi winters, hygiene and sanitation problems in far-flung villages.
  • For bloggers and writers- It is our social responsibility as bloggers to spread awareness about issues of importance through our writings. I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda. And so should you.

Children should not have to choose between the two very important things in life. Help end hunger in classrooms, and give them a memory to remember.

No one’s to be blamed: hail the justice system

At the 30th anniversary of Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the world’s largest industrial disaster which killed over 20,000 people overnight and poisoned the remaining for life, instead of losing faith in morality and justice, let’s try to look from the perspective of the capital giants, the legislature and the government.

Mr. Warren Anderson passed away in September, 2014 without any culpable punishment meted out to him.

Mr. Warren Anderson passed away in September, 2014 without any culpable punishment meted out to him for his role in Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

Can Mr. Warren M. Anderson, the American businessman who served as Chairman and CEO of Union Carbide Corporation and who was fully responsible for the designing of the carbide plant be blamed for the tragedy? He passed away without as much as a trial in an Indian court. He should be pitied, if anything, as he died without redemption. He might have found it better to serve the  punishment by an Indian court, must have been very minuscule anyway, because of a 1996 Supreme Court order which diluted the charges — from culpable homicide to causing death by negligence, decreasing his chances of punishment to a mere two years imprisonment.

But even that couldn’t be done, even after the Indian Government’s attempts at asking the US government to extradite him to India in 2003, after releasing him from a brief house arrest, believing him when he said that he’ll return for trial. Obviously there is such a thing as the promise of the tongue.

And yes, how can a court in New York under US law rule on the issue of ongoing soil and groundwater contamination against UCC, a company that employs more than 2,400 people in the US?

Everybody has their reasons to do what they did. Money has always won over morals. Even business ethics, which would have made the plant shut down after the 1982 inspection report that stated, “leaking valves could create serious exposure”, succumbed under capital benefits. That is the law of human capital nature.

Apart from one good news in 30 years regarding the hike in compensation on the basis of data from medical research and hospital records by the minister of chemical and fertilizers, we wait to see if the efforts of people to get the involvement of United Nations be fruitful.  It should be done to raise the issue at an international level and garner funds and help in undoing the environmental damage from the gas factory and proper healthcare in the affected areas.

Probably, the people who drink poisoned water even thirty years later, witness deformed births, and are haunted by memories of their loved ones they lost on December 3, 1984 would have to look upon Judgment Day for the true and complete justice after death. Haven’t they learnt anything from the 31.3 million pending cases in India?

Let’s hail the justice system!

Disclaimer: This is a satirical piece, and the author totally blames the UCC, DOW, and the lax efforts on the part of Indian government and the Supreme Court for the tragedy and the delayed/denied justice.

UN Women’s HeForShe Campaign Goes Patriarchal

With a new envision of gender equality, UN Women’s HeForShe campaign wishes to change the usual state of feminist movements which are attended and supported only by women by seeking to “put men at the center of activism and dialogue to end persistent inequalities faced by women and girls around the world”.

One thing that stands out in the entire campaign, right from its name is the positioning of women at the passive end of the spectrum. You have to be a male to join the movement. Only the men attending the conference were extended a formal invitation.

Agreed, true equality can never be achieved without the participation and change coming from men, but the elimination of women from the conversation is also not a prudent step. The whole concept of self-policing and self-objectifying by women which also propagates the patriarchal culture is not taken care of anywhere in the campaign.

The reason given to join the campaign, directing at men, says,

“Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation.”

It’s like saying you have to be an animal to support animal rights’ movement. Though the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson does mention that men are also affected by gender inequality, it is safe to say, that most of the time, it favourably affects the men. The HeForShe campaign puts all focus on men to change the state of gender inequality in the world without pushing the women to empower themselves. The UN campaign aims to enroll 100,000 men in the fight for gender equality, while the women are expected to sit and watch the numbers rise in the next 12 months.

As the website says,

“Now it’s time to unify our efforts. HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other of humanity, for the entirety of humanity.”

Let’s rather unify our efforts by bringing the WHOLE of humanity in support of one-half, for the entirety of humanity. #WeForShe

Otherwise the male-colonisation of a woman’s mind might continue even after the removal of subjugation, if women are not taught to usurp the patriarchal force themselves. The efforts of a struggling community is utmost and cannot be neglected.

Mysore’s Rich Culture of Celebrating Dussehra

Mysore takes the coup when it comes to dussehra celebrations in the country. With the rich mythological history and folklore associated with the day, of Lordess Chamundi Devi vanquishing the evil Mahishasura, who ruled over Mysore ruthlessly, the celebrations begin nine days earlier, unlike the rest of the country where dussehra is celebrated for only one day. Let’s see what makes the Mysore celebrations so rich and spectacular, that the place has become synonymous with the celebrations.

Rituals, pooja, royalty, traditions and the use of animals in processions

The celebrations at Mysore have strong religious undertones and dates back to 500 years. The diamond studded throne of the Wadiyar dynasty that ruled the kingdom of Mysore between 1399 and 1950 is thrown out on display to the public.

The elephants and horses undergo training for the grand day. Jumbo sawari, which includes procession of idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari placed on a golden mantapa on the top of a decorated elephant, is the main attraction of the festival. This year, as Arjuna, who carried the 750 kg golden howdah with the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari, flanked by elephants Mary and Cauvery at the fag end of the procession, approached the podium, 21 rounds of canon shots were fired even as the police band played the National Anthem and the three elephants raised their trunk in salute.

 Beautifying the place

During the 10 day festivities the normally calm, slow and peaceful city erupts into life and every street and street corner is bustling with activity. Houses, shops, Mysore palace and other important buildings in the city are decorated and illuminated for the period of the celebrations. Nearly Rs. 1 crore every year is spent towards maintenance of its illumination alone and more than 25,000 bulbs are replaced every year just before the Dasara festivities
rituals.

Mysore palace during dussehra

Mysore palace during dussehra

Courtsey: makemytrip.com

Individuals decorate their households, light incense sticks and lamps, wear new clothes and women put on jasmine in their hair.

Keeping the public engaged

To entertain the lakhs of tourists who come to attend the festival from all over the world, ctural programmes are organised, together with art and music celebritites being called. Various competitions like sports, wrestling, poet’s meet, food festival, film festival are arranged for the involvement of the public. Various shows including flower shows, dance shows are also held.

 Business and Promotional Spree

Dasara Exhibition is also arranged in the Doddakere Maidana, by the Karnataka Exhibition Authority, where the public and private sector industries, leading business establishments, government departments put up their stalls to promote industrial and corporate business for months. The festival is a fulcrum to promote tourism and generate revenue.

Mysore dussehra is one festival that you should visit atleast once to get the cultural and aesthetic sense of the place and of Indian mythology and to witness the importance that it holds to people till now.