Be The Change

be the change you wish to see in this world

Beyond Reservations…

Posted by bethechange on May 22, 2006

There has been a lot of debate on the recent reservation rule in India. Just couldn’t get the reservation debate out of my mind so thought would put my views in writing here. At least that way I can complete what I am trying to put across.

Fine, coming directly to the point. I agree that it is disgraceful that the condition of dalits, backward castes and other backward castes (OBCs) is so dismal after nearly 60 years of independence. But while I do want affirmative action I think reservation is the wrong way to do it. Only a thin creamy layer of dalits and tribals has benefited from them. They may aid the children of dalits like Paswan and tribals like Shibu Soren, but will do nothing for the millions without basic education or skills.

Caste prejudice is unquestionably a barrier to employment. But a bigger barrier by far is lack of education and skills. For centuries dalits and tribals are prevented from acquiring literacy or skills. Why isn’t government being pro-active at the grass root level? Only because that is the tough job, it is easier to pass an ordinance or make an amendment in the constitution and make reservations on the top surface. But how do these people reach the top surface without the basic education and skills? Because our hypocritical politicians have systematically neglected education and skill-building for oppressed castes.

I agree that upper caste children go to expensive private schools and get skilled. But government schools(set up by our own leaders for the oppressed people) are notorious for absentee teachers, for children who cannot write their own names after four years of schooling. Even the few who manage to enter college typically find that there is little teaching there either, that college degrees are often worthless.  When education provides no skills that will ensure good jobs in later life, poor dalit and tribal families often prefer to pull children out of school and set them to work. This is a vicious circle and the problem complex and the solution obviously not simple. 
Well, here is one way to do it. The central and state governments spend, very wastefully, around Rs 110,000 crore a year on education.  
 
Let one-tenth of that be channelled, in planned phases, through the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to create skills among dalits and tribals.  
 
Let these organisations open quality schools in every state capital to begin with, and eventually in every district headquarters. Let them also open polytechnics, vocational training institutes and quality colleges.  
 
These quality institutions must be good enough to attract the best students from all castes.  
 
They must not be schools reserved entirely for dalits and tribals: that will stigmatise them. A quarter to half the seats should be available, on payment of fees, to upper castes. Dalits and tribals should get free education, plus subsidies for hostel accommodation where required.  
 
While such schools will greatly increase opportunities, the bulk of dalits and tribals will remain in government schools. I would like to hope that success in my proposed system will catalyse change in government schools too, but I would not bet on it.  
 
How will CII and FICCI run schools? Possibly through the franchise scheme of Delhi Public School, which has set up a chain of quality schools on behalf of trusts and companies providing the wherewithal.  
 
Corporate members of the two organisations can provide a certain percentage of scholarships needed by the lower castes.  
 
I am sure CII and FICCI will happily take up such a challenge.
 
Well, I found this quite feasible solution from an article from the Times of India that I read some time back and have taken the liberty of lifting a few statistics from there. 
I would love to know what your reactions are as this issue at hand is no longer confined to a select few. Its time we took a stance.
I have enjoyed every minute of writing this piece as it has made me ponder but logically and not emotionally. 
–Brijraj

Posted in Activism, Blog-Related Posts, Political, Society and Change | 7 Comments »

Linking to Support the Bhopal and Narmada Campaigns

Posted by k.r.a.k.t.i.k on April 15, 2006

Here are a couple of useful diagonal bands to display on your blogs and webpages and do your bit to support the Bhopal and Narmada movements, now gathering strength in Delhi and around the world.

Note: The code below is to be put between the <head> and </head> tags of your template.

If you have any suggestions for improving these bands or new ways to spread awareness, please leave a comment – and do spread the word by linking back to this post using this link. And if you choose to use one or more of the bands, leave us a comment with a link to your blog / website, so we can all show our support.

For an example of how the bands would look on your blog/webpage, visit here.

Bhopal

Bhopal Left Diagonal Band

<!-- Bhopal left code starts-->
<script type="text/javascript"
src="http://www.geocities.com/ganganesh86/bhopalleft.js">
</script><noscript>
<a href="http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/FaxAction/email_action.php">
http://bhopal.aidindia.com/</a></noscript>
</head>
<!-- Bhopal left code ends-->

Bhopal Right Diagonal Band

<!-- Bhopal code right starts here-->
<script type="text/javascript"
src="http://www.geocities.com/ganganesh86/bhopalright.js">
</script><noscript>
<a href="http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/FaxAction/email_action.php">
http://bhopal.aidindia.com/</a></noscript>
</head>
<!-- Bhopal code ends here-->

Narmada

Narmada Left Diagonal Band

<!-- Narmada left code starts-->
<script type="text/javascript"
src="http://www.geocities.com/ganganesh86/narmadaleft.js">
</script><noscript>
<a href="http://petitions.aidindia.org/narmada/">
http://www.aidindia.com/narmada</a></noscript>
</head>
<!-- Narmada left code ends-->

Narmada Right Diagonal Band

<!-- I support NBA code right starts here-->
<script type="text/javascript"
src="http://www.geocities.com/ganganesh86/narmadaright.js">
</script><noscript>
<a href="http://petitions.aidindia.org/narmada/">
http://www.aidindia.com/narmada</a></noscript>
</head>
<!-- I support Narmada code ends here-->

Posted in Activism, Society and Change | 10 Comments »

14th April – Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday

Posted by bethechange on April 14, 2006

ambedkarBhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956)
Founding Father, modern India
M.A. 1915, Ph.D. 1928
LL.D. 1952 (hon.)

Ambedkar was a leader in the struggle for Indian independence, the architect of the new nation's constitution, and the champion of civil rights for the (then) 60 million members of the "untouchable" caste, to which he belonged. He spoke and wrote ceaselessly on behalf of "untouchables," but his passion for justice was broad: in 1950 he resigned from his position as the country's first minister of law when Nehru's cabinet refused to pass the Women's Rights Bill. Ambedkar was committed to maintaining his independence, and many of the positions he staked out in a long and complex relationship with Gandhi – on the future of Hinduism, for example – remain central to debate within Indian society.

Ambedkar received a scholarship to Columbia University from the Maharajah of Baroda, who would deal with him only through an intermediary. He earned an M.A. in 1915 and then a doctorate at the London School of Economics, returning to Columbia University for a Ph.D. that he received in 1928. In 1952 Columbia presented him with an honorary doctorate for his service as "a great social reformer and a valiant upholder of human rights." In 1995, a bronze bust of Ambedkar was donated to Lehman Library by the Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organizations of the United Kingdom.

At Columbia University, Ambedkar studied under John Dewey, who inspired many of his ideas about equality and social justice. Ambedkar later recounted that at Columbia he experienced social equality for the first time. "The best friends I have had in my life," he told the New York Times in 1930, "were some of my classmates at Columbia and my great professors, John Dewey, James Shotwell, Edwin Seligman, and James Harvey Robinson."

"My final words of advice to you is – Educate, Agitate, Organise – have faith in yourself. With justice on our side, I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality." –Dr.B.R.Ambedkar.

Posted in Society and Change | 41 Comments »

Your Land – My Land?

Posted by k.r.a.k.t.i.k on April 8, 2006

Some observations on the Narmada and Sardar Sarovar Dam issue:

Who gets to decide on what is right and what not? Who really decides what is development for the country? My country.

Is it the person who gives the orders to send more than 300 policemen in riot-gear to forcibly arrest and fetch three almost unconscious people who have touched nary a morsel for eight days? The person who forcibly feeds them against their will?

Another observation from the above and having watched at least 5 odd movies on Bhagat Singh's life and times (which I don't claim were terribly representative, but the facts are recorded in history as well) – how is this forced-feeding different from what the British did in 1923? Is it that now its done in a fancy ward called the ICU in AIIMS Delhi instead of a jail in Punjab?

From an article on rediff.com: is it easier to identify with a MiG pilot killed in the line of duty for his country or a model, the decked up face of society, shot in cold blood and denied justice persistently, than 35,000 far-flung and remote families in a place most of us will never even place on a map, leave alone visit? Is identification all there is to addressing injustice?

On desicritics: How is Medha Patkar and her stand different from that of Lata Mangeshkar's on the Peddar Road flyover? Does anyone have a right to impede the technological progress of the country? By no means, but does that give anyone (read GoI and the Sardar Sarovar Project) the right to displace thousands of people from their homes without even offering the most basic remuneration – a suitable new home?

How many college students in our country care about this issue? How many even know that this is an issue? Or that thousands are being displaced? Or that there is a river called the Narmada? Is the youth of the country aware of this issue, leave alone pro-active on it? Would you exchange SMSes on this?

These and a lot of other postings all over the www; the only thing that seems to really stand out amongst all these is the fact that society in general doesn't seem to care, and that there would be much more done if only it were for some active participation from people all around the country.

Think about it – the freedom struggle, the anti-VietnamWar demonstrations in the US, the Jessica Lall case more recently – the only reason people have responded has been the presence of the fear that the malaise in question may and indeed will come to haunt them in the not-so-distant future. The Vietnam War had a draft in place in the USA – as against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with no compulsory enrollment for young people of military-service age; seems to explain the absence of those anti-war protestors better. And a lack of identity with the situation.

What if your home were to be seized in the name of development, and in return you weren't even given a suitable place to live? Leave alone compensation. Would you keep quiet?

Would you want everyone else to?

Posted in Activism, Society and Change | 6 Comments »

Free Hand

Posted by bethechange on March 23, 2006

Bog Berg. A very interesting person. Why?

When he was a freshman in college, he secured straight ‘A’s. So he went to the Dean of his university and told him that he wanted a transfer to another more challenging university. Who wants to lose a good student? The dean gave him a year in which to decide what he’d like to do. So bob went to many classes and at the end of the year, having sat through a variety of subjects, he drew up his own curriculum.

What fun. Imagine being given such a free hand. Imagine being able to choose. Imagine authorities treating you as reasoning beings capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for yourself. Imagine telling yourself: okay, so I love biology, history and music. And drawing up a curriculum. Getting it approved and choosing your guides. Setting yourself targets. And most important: not being bothered be all the weepers who ask, “But what job will you get?” [Tell them – certainly a better one than those who do only one subject with little idea of what use it will be either to themselves or the world at large]

I remember when I was in college. Although a literature honors student, I assiduously cultivated professors from other discipline and attended their lectures. Some of the best classes were those I attended out of the sheer joy of it. History was always a favorite, where a Mr. Siqueira linked past events to political situation of the day. Since he was a ‘socialist’, his treatment of American history was dripping with sarcasm. The real fun was in reading authors with opposite views and go back and argue with his theories. Then there was Mrs. Hiranandani who taught ancient cultures. She was very much in love with Greek culture. It was a pleasure to sit in her class. She passed on her love for her subject. And Mr. Mascarhanes’ Economics classes. [For all the freedom, I still could not break the arts/science barrier and walk in on science classes. Perhaps it was because of the inherited notion that arts students cannot possibly understand science. Excuse me?]

Can your students do that in college today? How about a movement on this issue? Student councils could possibly look into academics too, for a change! To take other related issues:

· Graduate level studies could open up and give students a greater variety to choose from

· Students be given special credits if they attend interdisciplinary classes other than their own subjects. That these credits be noted on certificates/transcripts.

· Higher credits may be awarded if a student submits a paper discussing the classes attended.

· Such classes may be on selection of topics rather than duration. This will force the academia to announce their course and time table well in advance so that students can actually prepare for the classes instead of merely ‘attending’ them.

· Only those students who elect interdisciplinary studies may teach at any level. You’d have more interesting, informed and aware people teaching you!

Long time ago Mumbai university had drawn up a programme called Foundation Course. The Idea was wonderful. It was meant to be a bridge that connected disciplines. The science students learnt the theory and humanities had to take a paper called ‘scientific enquiry’. The, suddenly, the inspiration was gone. Texts were written most unimaginatively. Guides followed and then the final killer. ‘Marks were not counted in total’. It became a sham with an ‘e’. Students made not the slightest attempt to understand the purpose. The attempt to tell students that all subjects are linked and that they are related to every aspect of life was felled. I do not know who mooted the Foundation Course idea. But am sure s/he is broken hearted. Let us see if we can resurrect it more effectively and with greater freedom.

Give yourselves a chance. Learn for the joy of learning. Often, what begins as a hobby becomes our life’s work. I shall be happy to start a dialogue with anyone interested in the idea or any other student issue.

The writer, Aruna Raghavan, can be contacted at: actrust@sancharnet.in

Source: Indian Express dated March 19, 2006 (The New Sunday Express)

Studying what you want, is studying well

Posted in Society and Change | Leave a Comment »

The Root of Untouchability

Posted by bethechange on March 18, 2006

That Buddhism and Hinduism are antithetical to each other….Contempt For Budhists As The Root Of Untouchability

–By B. R. Ambedkar

THE Census Reports for India published by the Census Commissioner at the
interval of every ten years from 1870 onwards contain a wealth of
information nowhere else to be found regarding the social and religious
life of the people of India. Before the Census of 1910 the Census
Commissioner had a column called ‘Population by Religion’. Under this
heading the population was shown (1) Muslims, (2) Hindus, (3) Christians,
etc.

The Census Report for the year 1910 marked a new departure from the
prevailing practice. For the first time it divided the Hindus under three
separate categories, (i) Hindus, (ii) Animists and Tribal, and (iii) the
Depressed Classes or Untouchables. This new classification has been
continued ever since.

This departure from the practice of the previous Census Commissioners
raises three questions. First is what led the Commissioner for the Census
of 1910 to introduce this new classification. The second is what was the
criteria adopted as a basis for this classification. The third is what are
the reasons for the growth of certain practices which justify the division
of Hindus into three separate categories mentioned above.

The answer to the first question will be found in the address presented in
1909 by the Muslim Community under leadership of H.H. The Aga Khan to the
then Viceroy, Lord Minto, in which they asked for a separate and adequate Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Society and Change | 2 Comments »

Don’t Kill The Next Tennis Star

Posted by k.r.a.k.t.i.k on March 16, 2006

This article in the Making a Difference section of Outlook Magazine brings to light a pertinent issue in our country today.

Some excerpts –

… “Mubarak ho! Is baar beta hi hoga”
(Congratulations. It will be a boy this time) …

This was a pronouncement that used to be heard often in ultrasound clinics in Hyderabad where women queued up either to know the gender of their unborn child or resort to sex selection techniques to guarantee a beta

… “they believed ‘the law cannot touch us’” …

… The collector has also been instrumental in starting a campaign against female foeticide. It is a rule for every scan clinic in Hyderabad to display a poster showing that sex selection and determination is a crime. Kumar has even written a manual on understanding and implementing the PNDT Act …

Be the Change salutes this good samaritan in his localised efforts to ensure that this barbaric act does not ruin our society, once and for all.

Gender selection and discrimination of any kind is a crime. Take a stand, and report such occurrances if they come to your notice to the nearest authorities concerned.

Acknowledgements: Outlook Newsmagazine
(http://www.outlookindia.com)

Posted in Society and Change | 17 Comments »

Public Property

Posted by k.r.a.k.t.i.k on March 14, 2006

  • MTC
  • BEST
  • Indian Railways
  • APSRTC
  • KSRTC

What is common to the above list? We use it on and off every day, and life without it to most of us would come to a stand-still. Yes, we’re talking about public transport.

Someone once rightly said that the measure of a city’s progress, be it fiscal, technical, environmental or moral, is the state of its public transport and the population’s view of it. Do you use the public transport in your city? How safe and reliable is it past 9 pm? How frequent is it when you most need it?

But while discoursing at length about this issue, we all tend to forget the one basic fact that applies to most, if not all, public transport – that it is, all said and done, public transport, by which I mean that it is as much the government’s property as yours and mine.

And with good reason – we pay to use it, but more than that, the taxes we pay play a major role in its upkeep and enhancing the quantity and quality of public transit services. Hence it is extremely disturbing when one hears news of buses and other transport being pelted with stones, burnt down or damaged in other ways.

But you may argue, and justifiably, that its not always easy to save the bus or train being torched or damaged when an angry mob pillories its way past you with stones and sticks. Fair enough – let us start at a level where you and I can make a difference.

Have you ever noticed how not too many people seem to mind spitting gum on the floor of the bus, or sticking it under the seat? How many people will fiddle with a small scratch in the seat resin until it becomes a huge crater with foam springing out from all corners? How “Amit loves Parul” is carved with aplomb (and quite some creativity) upon the back of every seat in painstaking etching?

This is our property – and it is upto us to take care of it. It mightn’t seem the worth of the 2.25 ticket that you buy, but its you that will complain eventually about the seats being torn and the springs projecting out dangerously, and it is your money that will eventually be used to replace the faulty apparatus.

So next time you feel the impulse to pick at that gash in the side of the seat while talking on the cell-phone; when you see someone dirtying or in any way damaging the bus or train you are travelling in, remember this – when you complain about the state of public transport, you’re really reflecting on the nature of your city and its population.

Posted in Society and Change | 7 Comments »

One Change I would like to see…

Posted by bethechange on March 6, 2006

“Is the pace at which we are progressing enough to achieve Mission 2020? If ‘NO’ what is the one change that you wish to see/do t improve the rate at which we are progressing?”

“I don’t think we have yet attained that level of growth or development in India that we all should truly wish for, and that will only be attained the day we make the dream of a developed India true for everyone, rural or urban, and eradicate the various inequalities and injustices that plague our country. it will come the day we step out of our cynicism about the “system” per se and become participants in changing it – heck, on a personal note it will come on the day I see a 90% election voter turnout” — T. Kartik

“No, but it could be right to say that we are headed in the right direction. The one thing that needs to be changed is for us to become proactive and not participate in the ‘Blame Game’. Just keep in mind that when you point one finger at the others there are three pointing at you. Set an example and then others will surely follow, because inherently everyone likes an orderly harmonious world.” — Brijraj Desai

“Age limit in politics. We have retirements in jobs after a certain age limit, because our body and mind doesn’t support development. But in Tamil Nadu we have 82 year old Karunanidhi contesting for CM post. Instead a youth like Dhayanidhi (33 years old, telecommunication minister) can (only) do wonders. In the last Lok Sabha elections at Andhra a 95+ year person won and died in next few months forcing another election. Why did he have to contest in the first place?” – Jaya Prasad

“Question! It is our duty to keep a check on the government and question their wrong activities. Before doing anything or committing ourselves to anything we must question ourselves.” – Ganesh APP

“Instead of blaming the Govt. people must do their duties without a hitch. They must pay their taxes on time and in the full.” – Nitin

“A better networking of the country. Better roads all over the country, connecting every rural place, is a must for any form of development that we desire to see.” – Nivedita

“I want every child to attend school. Though the Literacy rate has gone up, it is still a very sloppy curve. We must work on educating the rural sector.” – Kausik

Would you like to share your views? Please post them in the comments section.

Posted in Society and Change | 7 Comments »

So What?

Posted by k.r.a.k.t.i.k on March 5, 2006

The following post features excerpts from this post on Dilip D’Souza’s blog, dcubed. How many times have we seen this and remained mum?

********

” … a woman I know — approaching 70 then — was returning home from the market in my Bombay suburb. The road led down a hill, with several buildings on either side. As she approached one, she heard a horn. It was a car, about to turn into the building.

As she describes it, she flattened herself against the wall. There was plenty of space for the car to enter the gate. Yet it actually scraped her hip as it went in.

Shaken by this, she walked in and spoke to the driver. Did you not see me, she asked. Do you know that you nearly ran me over? Was that necessary?

The driver said nothing, tried to hide a smirk.

Two young women were in the back. She turned and asked them the same question. Did you know your car came close to crushing me?

The young women said nothing either, only turned their faces away.”

********

“One evening a few days ago, the same woman — now nearing 73 — is walking down another street in our suburb. This is a one-way street, traffic officially allowed only in the direction opposite to how she was walking. Of course, nobody enforces this rule, and so nobody observes it. There is not a single time in my memory that I’ve been on that street and not seen cars careening the wrong way on it.

This evening, one such car comes up behind the woman and, much like that previous time, actually brushes her body as it passes. It turns into a building just ahead.

Shaken again, she walks up to the car and speaks to the driver. Do you know you came the wrong way, she asks, do you know nearly knocked me down?

This time, this driver, he replies. “So what are you,” he snarls, “a traffic cop?”

Yes I am, she answers. We all are.

Two young girls who have got out of the back are listening to this exchange. The woman asks them, did you know you were driving the wrong way?

“We did,” says one. “So what?” Then both walk away, into the building.”

********

We keep talking about being the change, making that difference not only in our lives but others’ as well. This post is really to highlight the one essential thing most of us miss out on – is it passive, or do we actually have to do something to be the change? Can we just ignore our surroundings and concentrate on being model-examples of the change we wish to see? Passive change – an oxymoron if ever there was one.

Unless we muster the courage to stand up for what is right, and more than that, get rid of the lethargy of the so-called chalta hai (trans. from Hindi: “its okay”) attitude, we’re never going to make a difference – and that’s as certain as there is night after day.

********

Acknowledgements: Dilip D’Souza, dcubed.blogspot.com

Posted in Society and Change | 2 Comments »