Monday, May 28, 2007

Other side of Munnar Demolitions

The demolition drive started by the Left Front Government in Kerala is going on in full swing. The media - both visual and print is full of news hailing the LDF and most importantly Achuthanandan who is cleverly using this to settle political scores with his own party men.

Yes, if the land belonging to the Government is encroached, it is the duty of the Government to vacate those people who did this illegal thing. But do you think the way the Government is doing this is the correct way? I don't think so for many reasons.

If someone encroached the land and constructed a hotel/resort, a clever Government should have thrown out the encroacher without demolishing the resort and handed over the control of the resort to some Government agencies - in this case to Kerala State Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC)) or to some third party. Thus the Government could have made sure that booming tourism industry could never suffer even for a short span. But what did our great Government do? Just to gain some cheap publicity they demolished the entire hotels/resorts built by the encroachers. The result - see the Deepika News below.

For those who cannot understand Malayalam the news in a nut shell is as follows: "The tourists who come to Munnar these days are not getting any hotels to stay and are forced to go back the same day".

Only one genuine industry that was seeing growth in Kerala during recent times was tourism. Now with these shortsighted, publicity stunt from the Government, I fear that Kerala will start seeing downward trend in this industry also.

Now the tourism minister has announced on May 21st that a master plan for tourism development will be prepared within 4 months for Munnar. Let us hope this master plan will see the light of the day at least by the time next assembly elections comes in Kerala. By the time all the tourists coming to Munnar they would have found more beautiful places outside Kerala and Kerala's tourism industry will plummet to new lows. But who cares?

Now have anyone thought about the people working in those hotels/resorts. Most of them should be very poor people. Demolishing these buildings in such a hurry could have put a big question mark on their life. Most of the encroachers may be rich but what about the poor people who work there? Again if the Government just threw out the encroachers without demolishing the structure these people would not have lost jobs.

Last but not the least; we have seen a trend with the communist party to make harsh comments against judiciary when a judgment goes against them. Their party leaders have even claimed that judiciary is following an "agenda of globalization" when few verdicts went against the party. Now when the Court gave a verdict supporting eviction the party whole heartedly welcomed the verdict, once again proving that communist party in Kerala is allergic to criticism of any kind.


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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Living for Others – The Indian Way of Living:

I went with my wife and friends to this place last week for some fun. It was a nice place in the middle of a forest. There I met a lady who was working in my department at my school. She was in her late sixties or early seventies. She told me that she was there for a vacation. She just sits there enjoying the nature, walking around and reading books. This made me think. Does such a thing happen in India? At such an age does ones grand parents do what they like or indulge in their hobbies? This made me realize the difference in the life style between middle class American and middle class Indian families, the way they are brought up. We Indians never in our life live for ourselves but only for others.

Let us walk through the life of a middle class Indian from the time he is born. By the time the kid is born in India his/her parents would start dreaming about what profession he is going to choose. They want their kid to achieve what they couldn’t. By the time the kid can understand stuff and start talking, parents make sure that the kid gets admitted to the best school. Kids at the tender age of 4 or 5 will have tons to study thus depriving them of their childhood pleasures. From that age parents start pressurizing their kids to be top in their class. Parents start comparing the performance of their kid with other kids of same age and the kid has no choice other than to spend most of his/her time studying to satisfy his/her parents. Here the kid is just living to fulfill the dreams of his/her parents and not for himself/herself.

By the time the kid is in high school the kid is forced to make a decision – either start preparing for admission into engineering or medicine. Kids won’t even have an opportunity to ask themselves if they like it or not. If the kids’ parents dream of making him a doctor he has no other go other than to study for the medical entrance. Again you are living for your parents. You don’t have a freedom to choose your career.

Now when that kid goes to the engineering/medical college, again he/she has to perform well to satisfy his/her parents more than anything else. Till you are done with your under graduation the life of a girl and a boy takes almost a parallel route at least from the expectation point of view. Life changes suddenly for a girl after her graduation.

No one in the family cares about how good she was in her studies or how good a job she has got. Every one in the family wants to see her married. "When are you getting married?, Why is it taking so long for you to get married after getting a degree" will be the common questions a girl has to face from the day she graduates to the day her marriage is fixed. Faced with all these questions every day, the girl has to agree for marriage. Here, again, it is not a personal decision but a decision to satisfy the society.

If you think about boys get a breather then you are wrong. They are supposed to settle down as soon as possible and the entire family wants you to work towards it. In a country like India where unemployment is rampant, getting a job and settling is a tough thing. As soon as he finds a good job the family gets him married.

If the bride and groom think that after marriage they are alone going to make the important decisions of their life then they are completely mistaken. From the very next day of your marriage, parents/family members/neighbors want to know the "good news". Every one around them wants them to have a baby. For most people in India if you are married, you need to have a kid immediately. I know at least two of my friends living in US who had to have a baby just because of the pressure from their parents even though they knew well that they are not mentally and financially ready for it. You don’t even have the freedom to decide when you want a kid.

Now you have a kid. Life has turned a full circle. Now it is time to bring up the kid the same exact way he/she was brought up by their parents. They spend their entire life for their kid. They start dreaming big things about their kid and they forget about their life in that process. Your life stays like that till the kid is grown up and has his/her own kids. Now you feel a big vacuum. Now you don’t know what to do. You only know how to live for others and you don’t know how to live for yourself. You get into a shell called "old age" and simply kill time. You don’t have a hobby of your own or you were never interested in extra curricular activities as you were living for "some one" and that "some one" doesn’t want you to persuade a hobby or an extra curricular activity.

Now think of a middle class American family. When the kid reaches the age of 5, he is allowed to play various sports and is allowed to choose the sport he likes the most. In school the stress is on practical learning rather than text book learning. Parents teach them to be independent and by the age of 18 they are on their own. They can choose the career they want, they can choose the hobbies they want. They live for themselves. They don’t have any kind of pressure to make any decision. An individual can use his/her own judgment and make a choice.
Now the question is which one is good. I personally prefer the second way, as it presents an individual with more opportunities to blossom his/her talents and to become a better individual.


P.S: This is my 50th post. Thanks a lot to all of you who have visited my blog. I have met a lot of great people after I started blogging. Blogging gave me a medium to express my thoughts and further shape my thinking process. It was Vijay who initiated me to this world of blogging. A special thanks to him.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

One Gone, Many More to Come?

Twenty-three newborn kids died in Sree Avittam Thirunal (SAT) hospital, one of the premier hospitals in Trivandrum, Kerala, India in the month of April. The reason - microbial infection in the labor room due to the unhygienic conditions existing in the hospital.

Remember this happened in a state that is proud of its achievements in the health sector. Will this incident be an eye opener to the people/administration to give more importance to prevent environmental pollution and encourage hygienic practices in Kerala?

If we see what happened immediately after the above incident, the things are not going to change. The Government suspended the Chief of the Hospital. The opposition parties called for the resignation of Kerala Health Minister and painted the incident as a failure on the part of the LDF Government. For them it is the time to point fingers at each other. If one went through the statements made by the Opposition leaders in this issue one would get the feeling that the bacteria/virus responsible for this death knew that LDF and Achuthanandan were in power in Kerala and it is the right time to multiply itself in the labor room of the hospital and give a political shock to the LDF.

Such kinds of statements shift the focus from real issues. We have leaders who can talk hours about the harmful content in Pepsi/Coke (no one in the world had died drinking them) for hours but we don’t have any leaders/administrators who know that labor room and all the equipments should always be kept sterile.

The political parties instead of throwing mud at each other should have taken time to understand why this happened and worked together so that such a thing never repeats in future. See the sewer system in Trivandrum. All waste is dumped into the rivers and thus rivers get polluted. Best example is Parvathy Puthanar in Trivandrum. It is supposed to be a flowing river but it has become a place to dump waste and wastewater. What is the result of this exploitation? The various pollutants in this wastewater will percolate through the ground and reach the groundwater. This water reaches the well or the pumping station and people will drink this highly contaminated water. So in the near future if you hear news that more than 100 people in Trivandrum have a particular kind of incurable cancer don’t get shocked. These kinds of things are just waiting to happen.

I took Trivandrum just as an example. Being from there it was easy to explain. Other cities in Kerala are no way different. Can you find a place in Kochi that is not affected by mosquito menace? If things continue at this rate diseases like Plague, Malaria are around the corner.

So what is the solution? The simple solution is to make people aware of the importance of preserving the environment. But creating awareness and hoping things will change is never going to happen at all, at least in Kerala. I feel the Government/authorities should take steps with private participation to keep environment from deteriorating by developing proper infrastructure to prevent pollution.

Having lived and studied/worked as an Environmental Engineer in US for the last 6 years, I know the investment required to build such an infrastructure. The investment required is much more than what a state Government that is already having sufficient deficit can raise. We need to have a modern water treatment plant(s), wastewater treatment plant that is capable of treating all the wastewater generated in a city, scientific way to collect garbage generated in each city. This list can go on and on. This can be achieved only by private participation.

“Developing infrastructure by private participation” is an allergic term for many in Kerala. Those people argue that it will increase the price of basic necessities like drinking water and they also argue that private companies are making money by selling even the water of our land. The price of basic necessities may go up. No private investor will invest in anything if he cannot get his return back with profit. But I believe that the increased price we pay - say for drinking water- will be much less compared to the price our future generation will have to pay if we don’t develop our infrastructure and prevent pollution.


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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why Sachin is not a Great Cricketer?

I was seeing the World Cup Cricket final between Australia and Sri Lanka with my friends. One of my friends who is a diehard fan of Sachin was praying that Australian opener Mathew Hayden got out fast so that he wont beat Tendulkar’s record of maximum runs in a tournament. When Hayden got out without overtaking Tendulkar’s record he was so relieved. For him Sachin is the greatest cricketer ever to set feet on the cricket field.

My friend is not alone. If you talk to 10 Indians who follow cricket at least six of them will be telling you that Sachin is the greatest and no one comes near him. Many of those people get really annoyed if you present the facts and argue with them that he has long way to go to be a great cricketer.
Is Sachin Tendulkar a great player? I don’t think so. He is a good player but did he do anything extraordinary to become great?
If you are asked to name 2 great soccer players I am sure majority will be answering Maradona or Ronaldo or Pele. Why are they great? Take Maradona for example. Those who watched 1988 World Cup will know how he helped his team to lift the World Cup. If my memory is correct he scored only 5 goals but he created so many scoring opportunities to his teammates that helped Argentina win the World Cup, same with Pele and Ronaldo. Their contributions were immense in their team winning major tournaments around the world.
Coming back to cricket, let us see what Sachin has achieved in his carrier. Apart from few innings (136 vs Pakistan in Chennai, 135 vs Australia at Sharjah) did he ever guide India to victory in an important match? In World Cup 2003 finals when the whole nation expected a big score from him to beat Australia, he got out in the very first over for four. Again in this World Cup match against Sri Lanka he went out for a duck to a bowler who was massacred by Adam Gilchrist in the World Cup finals.
India has won few test series in the Indian sub continent. Other than that did the so-called great Sachin motivate Indian team to win a Test series against a strong opponent in their soil? Can we think of a World Cup or Champions Trophy or a great Test victory, which was achieved because of Sachin? If he were a great player he would have excelled in the toughest conditions and in big stages.
I will consider VVS Laxman to be a greater player than Sachin. What a gem of an innings Laxman played in Calcutta against mighty Australians under pressure to beat them. I can’t remember of an innings of similar class played by Sachin for a long time. Can you?
Compare Sachin’s record to that of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. Waugh was part of two World Cup winning squads – one as a captain and other as a player. Just recall the innings he played against South Africa during the 1999 World Cup. That is what is called great innings – showing class when the odds are cast highly unfavorable to you. Also take Ricky Ponting – 3 World Cup victories – 2 as captain and 1 as a player. The innings he played against India during the World Cup final is just sufficient to make him great. The grand stage – World Cup final – and he delivered with unbeaten 140. Waugh and Ponting are great cricketers but not Sachin by any yardsticks.
Some people like my friend will argue that cricket is a team game and Sachin alone can’t lift the Indian cricket team to victory. The other 10 players have equal responsibility. Agreed. Teams play to win and if one player is considered as a great player then he should have the capacity to lift the team at time of crisis and during important matches. Sachin fails to rise during most of the important matches and in my list of great cricketers Sachin’s name won’t be there for sure.

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