Friday, September 28, 2012

Human Kindness in a Feudal Society

I drive from Delhi to Hisar in Haryana state very often. I see a lot of infrastructure development. New 6 lane highways are built. New flyovers are being constructed. All around connectivity is being developed. Haryana is one of the most prosperous states. People here have a lot of money. 

However, Haryana has a dark side. Haryana is a deeply patriarchical society. Her girls are killed even before birth. In this state, there is one of the most skewed male to female ratio. Because there are not enough girls for every boy, not everyone gets a life partner in this state. Frustrated and high on testosterone boys/men go wild and undertake a variety of atrocities directed towards women. Young women are directed and controlled by their family and village elders on whom she can marry. A few months before a dictat was passed by Khap Panchayat that included people from Jat communities residing in Haryana and Western UP, that women cannot carry cell phone and cannot go to market after a time of day without a male member. Women can violete such dictat at their own risk. 

Recently, it came to light that a young woman from a dalit caste was gang raped by a group of upper caste men. To add insult to the injury, the brutal act was filmed and circulated in the village as an act of retribution. Hapless father of the girl, on not being allowed to lodge a complaint, committed suicide. I can feel the helplessness and agony of the unfortunate father. My heart bleeds, I hope there will be justice. It is also important to remember what good is development if we cannot act as human.

In the midst of doom and despair, this story has a subplot that is so refreshing. Even though the girl cannot get her father back, an evidence is emerging that human empathy, fellow feeling, kindness and sense of fairplay and justice is not dead. An upper class jat girl, from the same village as the jat boys accused of rape as well as the dalit girl, went against her community cousins and informed police about one absconding boy. I also read that the whole village is taking the issue as their own and trying to help the girl. May be this jat girl and her village are an exception. However, this is one tiny seedling of human goodness that is growing amid tension among castes, religions, races etc. This tiny seedling must be nurtured with care and grown into a big banyan tree. That is only how our diverse country can progress. I feel so proud of this young girl who could feel pain of another girl from different community. How many of us can do such act of bravery?

Sisterhood triumphs over caste in Hisar - The Times of Indiat.coThe case has roiled Hisar, infamous for jat-dalit tensions. But in small mercies, a dalit girl's rapist's arrest — the first in the case — took place on information shared by a jat girl.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Supermarket vs. Neighborhood Stores

In Sep, 2012, UPA II government at the centre, allowed by executive decision FDI in multibrand retail. There was a lot heated protest and principal partner of UPA II, The All India Trina Mool Congress (TMC) withdrew support from the government reducing central government to minority status.

A lot has been said about pros and con of FDI in multibrand retail. I am sure this is not the last word. In a recent article in Times of India, author Sujit John has made very well reasoned argument against FDI in multibrand retail. The author has pointed out that more and more people will be attracted to go to supermarkets, ignoring neighborhood stores. It is important to point out that India is a much more diverse and highly populated country compared to western democracies like USA, Canada, UK and Australia. Our population is 1 billion plus, which is at least 5 times bigger than that of US and at least 40 fold greater than that of Canada and Australia and may be UK. Out of 1 billion plus people, may 100 - 200 million Indians have purchasing power, making it comparable to US population and still bigger than Canada, Australia and UK.  This population with purchasing power may go have the means to go to supermarkets, which will be outside the city and definitely not in towns with less than 10 lac people. Remaining 900 million people may not have means to go to the supermarkets or they may not have means to shop there. A point to remember, many people go to swanky malls, but majority still do their shopping from small markets where things are less expensive.

Another point to consider that shopping habbits of Indians are very different from that of westerners. Many Indians do not do shopping a week or month's supply of grocery. Even if we want to do, we may not have storage place or electricity to run freezers. On top of this, neighborhood kirana stores offer interest free credit, offer free home delivery and as the author himself suggested offer human touch. So many people will still shop at these neighborhood stores, take this number to be close to 500 - 900 million.

This argument sounds disingenuos.The author suggests that food grain and fruits that are lost between farm to freezer is similar between US and India. The author quotes statistics of McKinsey for India and Natural Resources Defence Committe for US. However, it is not clear if the methodology of loss calculation between US and India were similar or not. It is also a fact that every year we hear how food grains are lost because of lack of storage space. We hear fruits rot because farmers do not have storage space. Farmers have to sell fruits and vegetables cheap to middlemen/wholesale dealer, who in turn sell these at retail market at manifold high price.  to It is argued that super market chains will develop link with farmers and give them reasonable price, setup cold storage and build connectivity. At the same time shoppers will get a cheap fruit and vegetable.
It is important to note that several multibrand retail stores are in operation in Punjab. Besides, several Indian origin multibrand retail shops like Reliance Fresh, Subhiksha, Shoppers Stop, Big Bazaar etc are operational in several states. Many stores are not doing well despite a deep pocket. This could be considered a positive benefit to neighborhood stores. It can be argued that many Indian stores will sell out to foreigners, with much more deep pockets.  However, as argues earlier, many Indians will still shop at local neighborhood stores.
My wife is the one who mostly does our grocery shopping. Till about two years …ago, the word Choice was one that was

Monday, September 24, 2012

Centrifugal vs. Centripetal forces of life

Everyone feels sometime or other that they should be something else. The centripetal force of the unknown and untested pull us outward. Centrifugal force of society, family and friends pull us towards common practice. Majority of us make compromise, some become rebel and others go insane. It is important to balance between our duty and our instinct. Society tells us it is important to earn money, be good to society and take care of family. Instinct tells us to be free. However, those who travel untested path are not necessarily disrepectful towards society or family. If that be so, we cannot have spiritual seekers like Shri Rama Krishna, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi among others.
Most of us have a real self and an imagined self, made up of aspirations, dreams and desires, which present

Kudamkulum Power Station a Dire Necessity

Given the power situation in India, it is important that Kudankulum plant goes into operation. Without power our economy will come to a grinding halt. Without economic regeneration our young population cannot study, cannot get job, hospitals cannot function, and in short all aspects of modern life will be affected. We can stop this process of power generation at our own peril. At present, nuclear energy is one of the cleanest form of energy. However, nuclear energy has its problem. The same can be said about all other methods of power generation as well. Unless we want to go back to preelectricity days, infact many part of India have not yet seen electricity, we have to decide on a method of power generation by weighing pros and con.

Finally, I think the present protest at Kudankulum is politically motivated. Left being seriously out maneuvered during UPA I on the issue of nuclear deal with US, is trying to get back at the government through people like Mr. Uday Kumar. Come to look at it, Mr. Uday Kumar is not amenable to any reason at all. Besides, all left party members and sympathisers are aligning with Mr. Uday Kumar in the name of solidarity with people.  Question is why left always sympathises with a few thousand to few lac people, when close to a billion people are dying to get electricity?