Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Policy making - my thoughts, mine and mine alone.

Eat full roti, work for 100 days and vote.  This is the new mantra, the so called young leader has coined.  So called young leader because I thought 15 - 35 is young given the country age of our countrymen as well as the social scenario.

I know what I am going to tell will make me look insensitive and be termed blasphemous.  That I do not think of the starving, the incapable, the don't haves.  I must say here that I would rather have people eating the food our farmers produce than have in rotting in the FCI godowns, run over by rodents.  

However, what will a person do the rest of the days ?  The food bill, if it comes into effect will ensure that people do not go hungry.  Again, this is dependent on the quality of food grains.  Many a time, stinking food grains land up in the fair price shop only to be thrown away after it lands at home.  However, the Food Bill is good in one way - maybe we can make compulsory education really compulsory.  No parent can say that they can't send their children to school because they need an extra hand.  Also, we can ensure that child labour is totally routed out.   If this happens, then yes it makes sense.  Otherwise, the bill becomes another way for whoever wants to become rich the easy way, to do so.

I however am wondering about the other side.  A human being is driven to work by the need to provide for one's family.  It is also a sense of honour, of dignity and pride.  Are we killing it ?  There is a sizable population who are unable to work due to health and other reasons.  For them, the Food Bill is a must.  However, for the rest, how is this going to affect their lifestyle ?  I am not a sociologist or a psychologist who understand what motivates the people of India.  However, an average Indian is happy if he has the means to three meals a day and can provide a decent living for his family.  That is what motivates him.  And that is what keeps his health up.  If you say that the food bill ensures food, and hence the person can concentrate on providing other amenities for his/her family, then the question is, where are the jobs ?  

So, looking at the health angle, is this a right step.  Also, when money comes to the bank, will it be used to provide food for the family ?  If you have one drunkard in the family, then where will this money go is no one's guess.  Even today, many of us know families that do earn a decent living but are stuck in the rut because one member in the family is a drunkard or a spendthrift.  So, how does this help the family ?

So, question is, can this be done differently ?  Can I ensure work for a person who is a beneficiary of this scheme ?  Accountability is what you may call it, but I call it, keep him healthy, body and mind.  Pay him his daily wages - thus, making it a double bonus.  That way, there is food for the body and the mind.   

Note :  I am also against the subsidy for cooking gas - there must be a cutoff.  People who earn beyond a particular amount should not be granted subsidy.  Subsidize for those who need, for those whose life it will make a difference.  Use the money better - provide security, provide good roads, clean drinking water, better environment, more parks, better public amenities, drainage systems, .......  don't subsidize the wealthy. It does not make sense.  Make those who have feel responsible to the society around them.  So, make the Aadhar card common, but suit your policy based on the type of people who are being served.  

Again, this may be again called insensitive and irrelevant.

Note :  The above is not meant to hurt anybody.  All of the opinion is mine and mine alone.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Teacher

There are some teachers who make you wonder how they have the passion for what they do ?  Here is one such story.

At 9 am on a weekday, Abdul Mallik is busy wading through neck-high water, a tyre-tube around his waist, his tiffin box and shoes held in one hand above the muddy river.    

It's hardly the average morning commute, but for this 40-year-old teacher, it's all in a day's work.

Read the rest here :

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Who is Nikolai Vavilov ?

This weekend, I went to a salon.  I dread the time that I have to wait at a salon for the simple reason that I don't have anything to do and a salon with people cutting their hair and doing makeup and pedicures and manicures amuse me only for so much time.  Besides, the magazines available in a salon are those on fashion which do not interest me much.  So, the last time I accompanied Arun, I took along with me a novel.  This time however, I forgot to do that and when they asked me to wait for twenty minutes, I dreaded it.  

Sitting there, I turned to look for the magazine rack expecting to find the same pedagogy of magazines. However, one was different.  It was titled 'Geo'.  The issue looked at various customs connecting to religion. One article stood out.  It was about Nikolai Vavilov - a biologist, geneticist, geographer and above all, a man who thought of the future.  

Long ago, in the newspaper, I had read an article about a seed bank being created somewhere in the world. The objective is to keep the seeds being collected from all over the world for future use.  Made me wonder then about the brilliant brain who came up with such an ingenuous idea given the fast rate at which flora and fauna are disappearing from the world.  I left the matter at that and didn't pursue it.  

This weekend, I found the answer in Nikolai Vavilov's life.  He was a great traveller, but a traveller with a purpose.  He traveled to collect seeds from all over the world to create a seed bank in Leningrad, Russia for he believed in bio-diversity.  Given the Russia of the Czar's where famine and drought occurred once in eight years, his idea was to use bio-diversity to overcome this problem.  His work spanned from the period of the Czar's through Lenin's death to Stalin's arrival.  And from there it went down.  

Stalin imprisoned him believing him to be against Russia for he had no immediate solution to the food problem.  Besides, he had a dishonest opponent.  He died in prison impoverished - imagine, a man who thought up a solution to world's hunger problem died hungry and impoverished.  

The most admirable part was how his staff who continued to run his seed bank protected it.  The article speaks about one staff who was found dead on his desk with a handful of groundnuts which he was preparing to mark and sow.  They used to sow the seeds and keep replenishing the seed bank.  None of the staff used the seeds in the seed bank and ensured that it was well protected from the population outside who were starving because of the seige of Leningrad by Hitler.  The staff could have taken the tons of seeds and nuts available and lived off it for months - but no one did.  The self was minuscule to the larger purpose for them.  How and from where did they have so much integrity and selflessness ?

Today, seed banks are being set all over the world to preserve seeds for future use.  One is in Norway - the Svalbard Global Seed Vault located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. But the man who thought of this originally was Nikolai Vavilov in the 19th century - a man with a great vision.

Usually, the process of threading is a painful one for me.  My eyebrows - I curse myself for doing it the first time, grow unwieldy.  They told me that over a period of time, it will fall into place but no chance.  I have to stop my tears every time I go through it because of the pain.  However, this time, my mind was all on Nikolai Vavilov as they called me halfway through my reading.   All I could think off was the life of Nikolai Vavilov.  I got back to the reception and completed reading the article.  Time well spent in a salon. :)