Posted in Economic

Amazon to Reliance will be like frying pan to fire.

If India gets rid of Amazon, I will be the first happiest. Only I don’t want it to be replaced by the Reliance of Ambanis. In which case I would rather Amazon stays put. The foreign players are far better in service. With them we have fair dealings. Staff quality is exceptional or best across the board. If Amazon must close in India, then Reliance and Tata also must exit the retailing business. I as a principle NEVER SHOP FROM RELIANCE RETAIL. I have bought from the Westside of Tata, and harbour some guilt feelings about it. Tell me one area that these two huge business houses have not disturbed or have spared. Titan sent home all small time watch repairers and downed the shutters of dozens of watch-clock shops. What happened to HMT? Is Titan all one hundred percent Indian. What about Timex and foreign brands on display. Titan Eye Plus has taken over all the businesses of practising opthalmologists in my city Chennai and across entire India, that even I prefer changing my glasses here rather than our family optics we used to go to for decades. They employ a round-the-clock opthalmologist that you don’t even have to seek anyone for consultation. Its all under their one roof. Now we Indians wear Ray-ban and Essilor even for Varilux lenses., i mean the progressive lenses. See, even varilux is imported brand. Never stepped into Reliance Trends once that sent so many, many, retailers and small boutique owners packing. NEVER GOT A RELIANCE 4G PHONE. As much as possible avoid Uber or Ola. I prefer to use the services of a loyal automan who used to ply my son to school. Unlike the foreign app cabs and cabbies, the auto wallah used to get my son veg puff if he ever would pick him up late from school in the evenings. That is the humanitarian touch we all enjoyed in businesses and trade dealings in India until the thoughtless industrialists collaborated with foreign investors to bring it all down. Traditional market is long since gone in India. First of all how many can talk about Futures trading in our markets. Have you ever seen a tweet on what damage is being done to small farmers. Who are these bigshots doing the talking? What has F1 got to do with India. This is obscene that one must even think on these lines. India is not merely Delhi and Mumbai. India is also Chennai and Madurai and Kochi and Mangalore and Viayawada. Whether you like it or not, you have to accept the fact that I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO DELHI ALTHOUGH I HAVE TOURED A DOZEN WORLD COUNTRIES. I don’t even have the urge to see my capital city. YET I AM INDIAN AND NO LESS. And I admire Arvind Kejriwal even if I cannot belong with his political party. People down south, at least vast majority Tamils, cannot speak Hindi and are not even aware that an SRK or Amitabh Bachchan exists. The bestest Indian restaurants to my knowledge across the world may be Saravana Bhavan and Annapurna and Udipi, definitely not five star. These are from south. Bombay Chowpathy, Tandoor and the Kailash Parbath and of course now Zaffron are leading north Indian restaurants to my practical knowledge. We are NRIs for over 25 years now. The Saravana Bhavan chain caters to middle class NRIs or PIOs not the diamond trading Gujjus (who have reputation for fleeing the country bankrupt). India must become self-reliant totally, but improving human resources quality and potential is a must in this case. Our infamous ‘chaltha hai’ attitude must be dealt with first. Extremely proud of Indigo flight landing on India made gear (navigational system Gagan). Now that is truly desi and patriotic. I hope these bureaucrats stop suggesting to masses what is right and what is wrong and what we must do. We all have our eyes open and we can see what’s going on. I would any day prefer to get back to pre-Amazon times but then I am asking this one question: why should the Flipkart guys sell out. What happened to Jabong. Our selfish Indian bros exit making quick bucks the moment an opportunity presents itself. At least the Amazon are doing a wonderful job. Amazonless days are welcome, but don’t fill that with Reliance, is what I would like to tell Modi government. So whatever happened to Reliance oil in Krishna Godavari basin. Why should we ever trust an Indian business/industrialist.

PS: Amazon earned its rightful place in India during the emergency imposed upon us by back-to-back lockdowns when the pandemic reached us, even as nations including ours were grappling with the sudden influx of Covid. Everyone else failed our masses but Amazon did not. What were Big Basket etc., doing. Theirs and even the Dunzo app were down and ill equipped. Those who managed to get through and place orders were still left in lurch without delivery. The capacity of Amazon – is something I realized in this crisis situation. Lived upto its name literally. If not for Amazon, I am not sure what would have happened to us. The supplies were prompt, the website did not crash and no mix-ups either. And no inflated price over the markup.

Posted in Economic

The LIC Privatization

If LIC is on peril on privatization, then so are private pension funds in India such as HDFC, ICICI, Max, etc. And what about the private banking institutions. I was a bank employee myself and I worked for a private bank that was held by seven private and public sector banks with no retail investor. Now the bank is taken over by the parent public bank. I can recall the sentiment of fear and anxiety when private banks came into existence in India in a big way starting from the turn of the millennia. Indeed there was some ground for the public apprehension: one such a private bank, the Global Trust Bank, did go under. But there are others who have outperformed over economic forecasts from right their inception, the chief among them being HDFC and ICICI and UTI (Axis). These banks also have entered the insurance industry and stock markets and mutual funds. Should these banks fail, it means the end of India as a nation: that is how big these private institutions have grown into and spread wings (branches) pan India with roots well entrenched in strong fundamentals in the country as we have had the Indian public stand eyewitness to their taking babysteps from day one to expand into impressive institutions with global reckoning. So much so that it is private banks such as Axis, ICICI and HDFC that are most efficient today than the nationalized ones who are mostly queued up for mergers as they show heavy balance of the Non Performing Assets (NPA) accumulated over years. The private banks have been harbingers of modernization and computerization, taking technology to grassroots level quicker than public banks. Their banking service is considered benchmark today in entire banking industry. They dispense more cash with an impressive network of ATMs which is a proof to their liquidity, and their processing and disposal of loans etc., is much faster. When it comes to cards issue, they are par excellence with international validity that cannot be matched by nationalized banks. Indian citizens now prefer equally if not more the private banks, and this is by no means any exaggeration. In other words, the private banks of India today have metamorphosed into pioneer financial institutions of the country within very short span of time.

In life insurance and pension industry as well, we have participation of PNB Paribas tied up with SBI, HDFC, ICICI, Axis tied up with Max, etc., that have come out with credible results and performance. Not all are unit based funds. Mutual funds as well stock markets too see a healthy participation from the private banking sector over the government owned financial institutions.

India’s has been a mixed economy with both the government and private entrepreneurs working in tandem to cater to public demands. This is how our national economy has been operating since the dawn of our independence. Before Indira Gandhi nationalized the private sector banks in the year 1969, the Indian Overseas Bank, Indian Bank etc., were privately founded and managed by efficient hands turning out profits. In fact, the May Bank of Malaysia was founded by Tamil Chettiars which was nationalized at a later date by the Malaysian govt. The May Bank was the first ever banking institution founded in Malaysian history that is the pride of every single Malaysian Indian. This underscores the participation of the private sector that cannot be written off. Even today conservative private sector banks such as Karur Vysya Bank, etc., are rated best among the industry.

The private banks and insurance industry have been forerunners of some wonderful products (financial) over public financial institutions. Their interest earnings are far better. Their schemes are very flexible and their apps/platforms for trading etc., are user friendly. As for general insurance such as automobile and (foreign) travel insurances, the private insurance companies have a huge presence and may have overtaken the nationalized ones already. You only have to take govt insurance and private insurance for your two different cars and make a claim to discover which is fast and best and more reliable. In the health insurance industry as well, we have private health insurance companies leading from the forefront. The Star Insurance and Apollo collect the bulk of premiums over national health insurance companies.

That brings us to health industry. Who among us is willing to go to Omandurar govt hospital or Kilpauk or Stanley. The private health industry cater to all segments as per our budget: from five star hospitals such as MIOT to the neighbourhood polyclinic with specialists visiting on appointment.

Even in air travel, who is getting the general janata fly from one corner of the country to the other cheap and fast? Only the private airlines such as the Indigo. What stopped the government from founding more economic airlines to service the masses? When a private entrepreneur can operate a budget airline adhering to air safety protocol at profit, why cannot the government. What was the condition of Air India all these years. The former national carrier will be turning a new leaf shortly with the takeover by Tata.

If everything has to be nationalized, we must first down the shutters of some private political tv channels founded with ill-gotten money violating FERA regulations as it has been alleged. We shall have actual PEACE and NO VIOLENCE in this country.

Indians today prefer to enroll their wards in private or deemed (autonomous) institutions over established public universities is it not? Except for the first tier of IIT/IIM/AIIMS and the second tier such as NIIT/JIPMER etc., who among us would want our children attend government colleges. Will those who raise voice against privatization send their children Presidency College and Arts College. Or to Corporation schools or Government schools. I am proudly the product of a government aided State board school. Understandably, the private institutions have better lab facilities these days and employ the best brains for faculty over government universities.

In rural India, it is the private buses that come to the rescue of our masses living in far flung villages with no bus routes. The public transport such as railway may still be miles away.

How many of us have BSNL broadband at home. Why should we go for Airtel or Hathway or ACT. How many of us use BSNL network for mobile operator. How many among us use Vodofone or Airtel.

I am not for Reliance at all, yet I miss the Reliance petrol stations for their superior service and washroom facilities. No IOC or BP or HP outlet in India can match the Reliance standards. Highway travelers will agree with me.

Finally, today it is the private industry Information Technology (IT) that generates and employs a major chunk of our fresh graduates. The word to note is: EMPLOYMENT GENERATION. This is now done best by the private sector be it in manufacturing industry or what you call core industry or financial or tertiary sector. This is also one industry where foreign participation is enormous, that it can hurt us if anything goes wrong ‘on site.’ Public institutions simply do not have in them such a mammoth capacity to absorb skilled labour or they have been systematically weakened over decades by the preceding Congress govt that today they have degenerated into skeleton institutions and nothing more.

Note: Most of private industry have sizeable foreign participation already. Pharma for one thing. Startups such as Swiggy are possible only thanks to foreign investments. We live in an interdependent world: not in an insulated and isolated bubble just by ourselves. How many of us have modular kitchen installed without a foreign collaborated unit. How about our air-conditioner units. Automobiles. Refrigerators. Mobile phones. Even our furniture. TVs and PCs/Laptops/IPads. Dove soaps. Garnier shampoos. Loreal cosmetics. And we talk about nationalistic policies.

How about leaving Hindu temples to Hindus now. Will the DMK government give back our temples to Hindus. Or will they equally take over the churches and mosques, audit them, staff them and use their funds as it has been happening with Hindu temples? All Hindu temples across India have to be given back to their devotees for management. Indian government and state governments have been SHAMELESSLY using Hindu temple money to meet their own selfish ends. If Hindu temples have to be in govt care, then all churches and mosques must be similarly taken over and their financial positions gazetted along with details of Hindu temple fundings. I challenge our governments to do it or hand over Hindu temples to Hindus.

Private Industry such as the Tatas, the Birlas, TVS, Ashok Leyland etc., are hallmark manufacturers of India who have gone on to acquire foreign assets. What was the first Indian company to get listed at NASDAQ in our history? INFOSYS. Who have global imprint today employing millions around the world.

I have not gone into the financial analysis of LIC with relevant statistics for my write-up. My logic lies in weighing the pros and cons. We have encouraging precedents and we are hopeful that LIC will follow a similar path to privatization and healthy zooming profits in future. If this boat is to sink, remember India must go under, God forbid! To empty talkers who have no patience or inclination or facts and figures, ignorance is truly a bliss!

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Until now i have not googled LIC privatization. I am adding a few lines from googling hereunder:

LIC going public is fine but the foreign participation must be capped to 49% maximum with controls resting with Indian hands on disinvestment. LIC has been conservative institution in Indian history. The public reaction on privatization is understandable and must be addressed. Foreigners holding stake upto 75% may carry risk component that can rock the ship. Let PM Modi not forget Lehman Brothers. As financial institutions grow, their expansion beyond boundaries cannot be helped. Joint ventures have to become public listed corporations, etc. Key industries with security concerns such as the Defence, Space etc., and mass facilities such as major rail routes need not have to go in for privatization. However luxury private trains are permissible and are already on operation such as ‘the palace on wheels.’ Along with star rated hospitals, the public health centers (PHCs) need to be expanded for the general public. The private and public industry can co-exist in mixed Indian economy servicing to different segments of our population.

PS: I am no financial pundit or qualified expert to speak on this. Just a housewife’s cue 😀

Posted in Economic

Yogi’s Population Control Plan for UP

Large size families must be penalized, for stringent enforcement of population control in India.

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A Uniform Civil Code (UCC) bringing all Indian citizens under the single umbrella of a uniform statute is long overdue.

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If India is not overwhelmed outright by terror, I won’t be surprised if we are won over by population jehad. The war is already afoot in India as Hindu population continues to shrink back while non Hindus are exploding many multiple times. Would we be following in the footsteps of Egypt and Turkey before the turn of this century? Would we Hindus become minority in our own Dharmic Hindu nation someday to live at the mercy of others?

India is incomplete story, unfinished business for both the islamists and christians. India defies the Abrahamics and continues to exist in history as a predominantly Hindu nation, one of a kind barring mere Nepal.

When population control was introduced first in India, the target group was Hindus naturally. Enforcing or advising the same to the Abrahamics amounted to ‘offending their religious senses’ as per the Congress govt that had made the Hindu fertility their scape goat. While the patriotic and literate Hindus cut back on their family sizes, we saw at the same time how others were multiplying already like rats and rabbits.

The other day I was browsing through Chennai corporation website to extract my son’s birth certificate. I was shocked to find that over 30% of newborns on a June date as far back as in 1994 happened to be muslim. The chrisitian babies’ figure was normal and within bounds. But the muslim baby count far exceeded my expectation. Birth ratios for communities have to be in correlation with the population share of the respective communities, but not necessarily. The demography ratio and the percentage addition to population by each community have to be in direct proportion. In India, the minorities have the highest rates of population growth while the majority is falling back. This can mean disaster for a secular democratic nation like India. Our democracy is incumbent upon our demography, it goes without saying.

Anyone can crosscheck fact sheets in Chennai corporation website. You can extract your own birth certificate from 1960s/70s and those of your kids born after 1990. A comparative study is advised.

If this is the case of Chennai city, work out the statistics for whole of Tamil Nadu and entire India. While the Hindu families have been shrinking in size drastically, the Abrahamics have been expanding manifold during the same time. While the muslim population in India is increasing in superlatives, the chrisitians are resorting to ruthless conversions to boost their numbers. Modi’s BJP governments successfully plugged many loopholes that were flushing in dollars from the west for the christian conversion mafia operating in India. Foreign evangelists have been kept out to a good degree in recent times. While there is little success in this front, conversion is still rampant all across India without a break.

In under thirty years, there is a possibility that India will become for the first time in world history a NON HINDU majority country which is AGAINST OUR VERY GRAINS. This is the land of Dharma. I respect equality and secularism, but I wouldn’t want India to become one more islamic nation or a duplicate hallelujah country in world map. We have ample number of both chrisitian and islamic nations in the world. Nepal that used to be constitutionally Hindu is also now made secular by the communists. India that must have been constitutionally secular Hindu is steadily losing Hindu population.

What is more worrying is that, India has different statutes governing different communities. I wonder what is taking so long for the Indian government to bring everyone under a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) at the earliest.

I read this social media post on one of the negative effects of having different statutes for different communities in India. This enables polygamy in India on which our leftists and communists and media have been strangely silent about. Neither can you come across our so called liberals pulling up our government when it comes to enforcement of UCC.

This could be an imaginary scenario as well but quite a legal possibility. Consider this: A senior govt servant who is muslim dies, leaving behind his four legal wives in India. Let us assume the first or the eldest legal heir/successor is 60 years old and the youngest wife is 18 years. Then theoretically the fourth and the last wife of the man could continue to draw government pension until her lifetime, The govt exchequer could be paying out the pension to one wife or other of the dead government servant close to a hundred years!

I admit I am not sure about the veracity of the story but this did make me think a lot on the urgency of introducing the UCC in India. The islamic community in Europe, America or Australia follow the law of the land and do not seek special privileges as they do in India. Indian muslims will welcome this move by Indian government with open arms. After all, when the Triple Talaq law was passed, there was wide appreciation for the same from the Indian muslims. Why underestimate them.

Similarly, any legal move aimed at curbing the exponential growth of Indian population is bound to be welcome with cheers by both Indian muslims and Indian chrisitians. The insecurity of the native Hindus will be in their consideration. Which is why I am for the population bill to be introduced by Yogi government in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

There can be a cut-off date fixed like say, 2022. A third baby born in a family could incur for the family more taxes and sops cut. The said population bill is not community-specific. The law may be applying to all Indians irrespective of your religious rooting – be it Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Sikh or Jain/Buddhist.

How unfair is it to have a big family in India:

If you have more than two kids in family born after 1990 or 2000, it means, your family is using more resources meant to be shared by other needy. Even if you have the capacity to pay for energy sources, as these are limited, you directly contribute to increased prices on account of creating artificial scarcity for resources. A three child family consumes natural resources and energy three times as much as a family with a single child. You consume more food, more power, more space, claim privileged seats in universities that could go to poorer and more deserving families. Why should the third or fourth child of a particular community be eligible to enter IIT or medical college even if the scores are good, compared to a mediocre from a two child family. If the kid from single child family or two child family loses out to the brighter kid (we suppose for this case) from a three or four children family, it is very unfair. We live in a world where everything is measured and one family resorting to more consumption of any or all resources is extremely unfair. Population control has to be advised to some communities in a language that can be understandable to them, like how the UP CM is doing now. I wouldn’t suspect illiteracy to be an issue in a nation where the rural poor are very verse with smart phones and apps like whatsapp and gpay. Don’t give me that crap now!

I welcome Yogi’s move for family planning and population control one hundred percent.

At any time, India must ensure that the majority Hindu population does not dip under 75-80%. However I doubt if that is the case already.

Government of India on enforcing UCC can also propose a population control plan on lines of Yogi for implementation at national level. A breathing time can be allowed before the law is in place. The two child norm can have a cut-off date for enforcement, say somewhere in 2022/23.

Posted in Economic

One Size Fits Not All: Standardization/Regulation Hick-ups In India.

In colourful vibrant India, everything has to shine a different shade. Every kinder garten kid must flutter like a butterfly in a different pinafore than the kid from a second or third neighbourhood school.

The range of secondary school education boards we boast of: Respective State boards, CBSE, ICSE, NIOS… and of course the latest IB (even though if you follow IB syllabus you will have to necessarily go for graduation to a foreign university as Indian universities do not recognize IB school certification). Not to leave out the rural municipal schools/urban corporation schools which may adopt state board stream… Where is a uniform platform to contend.

You would never know whether private buses ferry industrial workers to factories or kids to schools unless you read the nameboard, because school buses ply in all colours from yellow and blue to pink and green.

How are college campuses. How many tiers. For Tier I we have IITs and IIMs and AIIMS etc. Tier II has NIT etc., Tier III comprises other engineering and medical colleges, and so on… Every tier seems to have a qualifying entrance specific to the their layer. No standardized selection/admit procedure or test.

Hail a black tuktuk (auto rickshaw) in Delhi. In Chennai hail the yellow one and in some states of India watch out for the green ones.

How about sizing in India. Are our brands and sizes compatible. Size XL in one brand can be size L in some brands in the country whether it is a t-shirt or trouser or kurta. You can never take the sizes for granted. Shoe sizes? Shoe size 38 in one brand and size 40 in a different brand and size 8 in a third may be the same fit! And here we have the next level of confusion. UK size or US size or Europe size??? Shoe sizes now measure from 6 to 12 (US sizes). But what is really the standard Indian size for garments or footwear.

Aerial views of geographical locations excite us always when we board a plane. The only country where the aerial view is so mixed-up, confused, hazy and clueless is India’s! I have landed in well planned and organized countries in Europe, Asia and America. I can’t help comparing and concluding that the bird’s eye view of my nation is just a sample of things to come once we land. Co-ordinated town planning and organized development missing in us so that, India is an eyesore when you look down from the skies.

Is our water consumption metered? Water is the scarcest natural resource as we know, even if replenishable. The upper middleclass among us have access to abundant piped water supply, footing a bare minimum bill (by way of a flat water tax and minimum fixed water charges), with the regular unmetered municipal/corporation water filling our basement sumps to the brim, while the lower middle/working class have to run after the water tankers. Notable is the absence of a civic water distribution system that must be in place for the poor and the neediest among us. The rural scene is unmentionably pathetic. Who are we shortchanging here. India could be the only third world nation that does not meter water. Go see the European nations and America my dear countrymen and government. Not even a glass of water is free even in restaurants where it is always free in India wherever you go, especially in restaurants.

What about a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for all Indian citizens, the most important of all. Why do we have separate laws governing followers of different faiths. High time everyone is brought under the single umbrella of a uniform statute. Are you hearing me pseudo liberals and leftists. Or are you having your moment of selective amnesia. Dear Indian bhais, do you enjoy special religious laws in the US and in European countries. Can you have four wives as per laws in the west. Whereas in India, I recently chanced upon some real life cases. Legally sanctioned. A muslim man who retired as govt servant left behind four wives. After him his pension was drawn by his first wife, then second, then after her the third and then finally the last who was only 20 when she married the old man. The man’s four wives were drawing more pension for longest number of years than the man’s service record, close to over half a century. In which country on earth is this possible including in middle eastern.

Is there anything in India that is properly standardized, regulated. Anything at all streamlined effectively and hassle-free that you can go about your exercise without a bottleneck.

Conforming to uniform national standards across the board will be a national benchmark. It will be a day of reckoning in Indian history.

Until recently before GST was introduced, even the Sales taxes and Excise duties varied from state to state on crossing border. Now with the imposition of a uniform tariff, long queues in checkposts are eliminated. Some attempt at regularization of revenues, a commendable attempt! Seamless pan India trucking for all-India permit holders. The fuel and time and charges and manpower saved!

Aadhar unique ID and PAN (Personal Assessment Number (for Income Tax)) are like baby steps at standardization/regularization and linking of both may not be a hundred percent foolproof method to prevent loopholes but may go a long way in preventing duplication of accounts and hoarding of black money.

Driving licences and Passports were easiest to standardize and centralize.

Voters IDs have some regional input like the PDS Family cards.

Without standardizing education, some learned so-called pundits talk about reservation. Yes, reservation in India is possible when every kid in India either attends the neighbourhood creamy academy or the municipal school uniformly. When the differences start as early as in kinder garten, there is no way we can suspend reservation quotas in India for the moment. Privileged classes have to make amends to accommodate the under-privileged to usher in some sense of social justice in the country. Reservation is merely a compensatory pay-out.

NEET may be a bold step towards regularization of admit of candidates to our medical universities even if it may pit our rural aspirants in a disadvantageous position.

At a very slow pace, India is going for standardization across the board.

Is standardization/regulation not possible at all in a country like India. Remote chances even if a country seven times as large as India, the United States has managed to achieve sort of an equilibrium, so to say. In India, the differences are culturally rooted and have been in place for centuries. We will have to work harder and with sincerity to weed out the discriminating factors dividing the society.

Only a satisfactorily literate society can realize the objective goals of a flourishing economy. In such an event, standardization is the natural outcome. A free and fair economy is possible when we have level playing ground for everyone in our country.

It takes a strong will on the part of administration/government to enforce laws to standardize our economy notwithstanding criticisms.

Inclusive growth is the only way to grow uniformly and evenly. Over next few years, hopefully we can count on more standardization and regulation-regularization enforcements for bringing in equality and social justice across the spectrum.

Posted in Economic

The Immeasurable Knowledge & Acumen Loss In Covid Times…

As thousands of lives get lost in this horrifying second wave of Corona pandemic, it may probably sound improper if we mention loss of knowledge and knowhow accumulation herewith. .

I am thinking of the higher secondary school students who have never been in the Physics lab, Chemistry lab, Botany lab or Zoology lab. I am talking about Engineering students who have not touched a lathe/machinery or nut-bolt in the Mechanical lab, not held a test tube or conical flask in their hands in the Chemical lab, not been on industrial tours or construction sites, not bisected a frog or reptile. I am concerned of the medical/ dental/ veterinary students who may be missing their autonomy classes vital to mastering physiology, their OP ward hands-on experience that can hone their diagnosis skills, semester examinations and of course the crucial internships that may initiate them as serving physicians in their chosen medical profession… What a tremendous loss to humanity! Can we even quantify this knowledge and expertise loss across India! Very unlucky batches, those that are caught in-between.

Many wonder aloud about school kids studying at home. I have no problem with that as my son had homeschooled under me in Malaysia upto standard two. The only issue may be fitting into classrooms when it is time for the children to go back to schools. The younger ones can adapt very fast to changing scenarios unlike us adults. The one problem I do foresee is the toilet training. This requires disciplining from early years controlling bladder from kinder garten. A second one could be relating to the morning routines and time-keeping/punctuality apart from eating habits, keeping hygiene and grooming neat. But none of this is unmanageable.

There are mentions of severe neck pain and even rare cases of vertigo in young children and teenagers who are learning from home online without attending schools in last 1.5 years. These are the ones glued to their mobile phone and computers for hours with incorrect posture that can injure their spine. This is an area that we must focus on apart from the mental health of the children who are denied their outdoor playing time and extra-curricular activities that may require physical attendance. Vitamin D from direct sunlight which is essential for bone growth is denied to growing kids. Last but not the least is the human touch to holistic education which is absent with the teachers staying home and schools closed. Online classes may hardly replace the classroom teacher parked in front of the blackboard.

Vocational courses have born the brunt of the covid 19 lockdowns that shut practical classes to their students. These include semi-skilled professions like plumbing, electricals, electronics, carpentry, air conditioning etc.

Fortunate are the school and university students in commerce stream who are least affected by the covid 19 effect on their education.

The computer students seem to be faring okay given the conditions after the accounting ones and arts & literature graduates.

Campus interviews have not been happening, and if they do happen fail to materialize into concrete appointments for fresh graduates. Those who wish to pursue higher education are left in the quandary unable to decide as job prospects grow dim. Even if this can be a temporary phase in our lives, covid impact will stay with us for a long time to come.

Medical and engineering aspirants in present times can seriously contemplate taking a break after finishing school until situation gets normal in an year or two. In my personal opinion this will be a better and thoughtful choice over missing valuable classes.

How to make best of the circumstances is what the academic institutions must focus on. Will it be possible to open up science and tech labs to staggered batches of students.

The years 2020 and 2021 need to be written off from the Biodata and CV of all those pursuing higher secondary school education, undergrad and postgrad courses in universities. Employers need to relax their prerequisites such as job experience when it comes to recruitments.

The restless teenagers need to be handled with care. They are at the threshold of their adulthood and they must not be allowed to lose their hope. It is important to engage them fruitfully in alternate activities and keep up their spirits.

Let us cheer our younger generation and not allow them to wither before they bloom. Looking forward to a bright and cheeful future!

Posted in Economic

Where there is no level playfield

Sometime back I read a post on difference between CBSE education and State board education.

I have these to say.

I and my friends attended only LS, the famous girls’ school in Mylapore. I still remember my 6th standard school fees. It was a total of twenty six rupees for one academic year, that’s all. It was paid by my mother in cash. In my 7th standard, we paid Rs.33/- for one whole academic year.

Finally in standard XII I guess I paid Rs.150/- as per prevailing cost of living conditions then, being annual fees. Apart from this, I guess we paid exam fees to the board of perhaps 5/-rupees nothing more, to my memory.

Look at what we paid for schooling and what the privileged kids paid for theirs. In what way today we are inferior to the CBSE school products.

My school/classmates have gone on to become medicos, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, lawyers, teachers etc in every corner of the world. My mother too was an alumnus of my school.

Dr. Shantha of the Cancer Institute of Adyar passed away today. She was a renowned alumnus of ours. Playback singer Vani Jayaram and actor Lakshmi are our proud alumna.

My education was heavily subsidized. Max fees I paid was for my math undergrad degree in private college – which came to 750 rs per annum which was deemed very expensive in those days. My PG fees was Rs.500/- pa being Univ of Madras govt dept. Through out school, I received my father’s office scholarship as he worked for central govt undertaking which came to Rs.600/- pa much more than what we paid as fees. For class 11 & 12, I received cheque for Rs. 900/- pa from my father’s office because I scored over 90% in all classes. The scholarships were awarded for scoring 90% marks in previous annual exams by the children of the employees.

My husband and his brothers attended Tamil medium schools in villages as my FIL was posted in rural Tamil Nadu. Only for class 6 they came to Madras. The boys went on to still become school toppers in English stream in state board schools and also in their respective colleges and are leading professionals in their chosen fields ever since. Until now their grammar may not be perfect but my hubby claims, he and his bros have what we call ‘technical brain’ which can understand maths and physics and chemistry effortlessly that comes by birth. The other brain is what we call the artistic brain that can enable some of us in becoming artists-artisans in creative fields such as literature, art, costume designing, performing arts such as theatre, music etc.

Until today this is the greatest plus for the brothers as I can see the same trait even in my son. To them equations and numbers and formula are too very simple and not at all confusing or complicated. But for my husband anything literary is very complex. Writing an essay or even 3-4 lines at one go is … not really a problem but never appealing if I can put it that way. Anything artistic is too out of the way so I wonder how he is reasonably a good amateur artist still. Perhaps that is why my son is a mix of both literary and math brains. Rarely we see such a combo.

I gave homeschooling to my son from 3 years to 6 years in Malaysia. I took the text books with me. Here in good old Madras, he had just started school and was starting to write alphabets.

In standard 3 at the age of 7 years he was turned down for admission by every single school in Chennai as he did not have record of formal education. Indian school system sucks!

Finally a matric school in Anna Nagar dared to give him admission as I was nearing the end of my wits running from pillar to post frantically trying to secure admit for him in any school. The correspondent of the school simply opened the school diary and asked my son to read the national pledge. My son read it fluently and comfortably. He was given spot admission. Two years later I switched school for him when the correspondent got irked. In these 2 years, I received many notifications from the school that was pulled up by state govt authorities that sought records for my son’s formal education upto class 2. We had not a single paper and I was forced to get a signed declaration from a retired teacher in Malaysia claiming that she taught him at home. Only then he was allotted an admission number. It never mattered to the board or any authority that my son was already topping the school almost having had no formal schooling at all until his 7th year.

So I wonder what is wrong with our education.

In Malaysia, our PC was my son’s blackboard and I taught him upto class 2 at home at our own leisure. I had educational CDs from ‘Pasar malams’ the famous nightmarkets of Malaysia that played a vital role in his education. We did playfully and joyfully the numbers and rhymes and even short stories. My son also did attend a play school with Malay and Chinese kids for an year but regular schooling for kids started in the south east Asian country only by 7 years. When we were back in Chennai, my son could comfortably read the latest Harry Potter over other kids who had had regular schooling right here in the city. So I guess it is merely a matter of how much your ward can absorb irrespective of what or how much you can impart. Or that is how I see it. Kids brains are like sponges. Of various levels of absorption. Some drink in more whereas some imbibe moderate. Learning can be from outside world exposure as in my son’s case.

CBSE syllabus is undoubtedly good I am not denying that, but state board kids pay far less for education compared to the central school kids. For what we paid at least in my generation, what we received in return was immense. In my opinion which stream you study is hardly important. State board kids are far more street smart. Finally it’s a question of affordability in India, which school you attend and which university you graduate from. It is very cruel to compare the better-off kids attending CBSE schools with the rural state run school attendees who have to walk miles to go to school.

Contrary to what I read from the post on CBSE vs State schools by this friend, when my son joined engineering stream, most failures in his class were from CBSE who were overconfident. As the state board kids were learning engineering physics, chem, maths, engg drawing for the first time, they worked diligently and secured a pass.

But CBSE students definitely have the best edge in national level entrances especially when it comes to IIT, II of maths, physics, science etc. Aspirants for these streams need to take up only CBSE syllabus and nothing less.

One has to remember here that Sundar Pichchai still attended Jawahar Vidyalaya only and not PSBB even if later he went on to graduate from IIT-IIM. The other stalwart CEO of Microsoft from India, Satya Nadella, isn’t even from a pricey engineering university reportedly. Not an IITian.

Finally it is all upto the individual. How well you capitalize what resources are available to you. How well you hone your skills. How you apply your knowledge and skills acquired in 2 dimensions to a practical 3 dimension. As we say in Tamil, ‘yettu suraikkai karikku udhavaadhu.’

My husband says, whenever they secure mammoth industrial project contracts, as project head he thinks ahead by years – in 3 D – from raw material and manpower procurement and execution phase to complete profit projection. Most importantly cannot allow idling of resources which will be billed on the project. He can visualize the entire concept and finalize the designs (steel design structures) in his mind and order of phases of execution. For instance, in the case of even basic demolition, one has to start from roof top not from rock bottom. That’s how you go about things. He says for this logical thinking you have to be street smart with hands on experience. Text book knowledge is insufficient. Translating your book knowledge to field acumen is the secret. That is how filmy directors work. That is how director Shankar made his Robot starring Rajnikanth. What kind of schooling can teach you this kind of critical thinking, planning and execution.

My simple state board school had National Geographic stacked in our library and that is how I got to know of the journal in my middle-school. We were obviously subscribing to such world class editions at a time before we had satellite tvs that beamed in these foreign channels right into our living room.

My school taught me to respect elders, to be responsible, to be polite, to be humble…. and more than all I mixed with middle-class girls which is what makes me what I am today … for better or for worse. As not much came from text books, we girls learnt a lot from other outside sources, from life experiences etc.

I don’t know how good state board schools are faring presently. For the first time I believe a christian lady is HM in my girls school now which is nothing sort of a revolution. Such a Hindu school which is the main reason I was enrolled in this school. Obviously the world has come a long, long way.

It is heartless to criticize the state board kids or syllabus because they are not there by choice. They are in state board only because that’s what their families could afford.

The lapse is on part of the Indian state. Such a disparity in education. I think I have blogged on this in the past. A kid’s destiny is decided right at the time of his/her KG admission. There simply cannot be comparison between a corporation/panchayat school kid who learns in local language (Tamil) and a urban upper middle class kid attending creamy school in the metro with access to (global) English (language) text books to study materials. In which other country in the world is education so divided and unequally distributed as in India.

In Malaysia, there was only one board. You attended school that was closest to you. Admission denied in any school over 2 km range. I was stunned to see the uniformity of education there all those years back. Which is why Malaysian Indian (Tamils) community mostly as well as the Chinese community were doing so good. Admissions to universities had quota system favouring the Malays. Down at school level, everyone was on equal footing with equal opportunities available to all. Those who are questioning reservation in India today are precisely from the creamiest section ironically. Yes, you can do that provided you have the guts and honesty to enroll your kid in corporation school. Let all of us start life on equal footing. Then we will earn the moral rights to phrase and question the formulated practices of justice in the nation.

Now that brings us back to the question of NEET. This is why NEET is NOT justified in rural India where poorest rural children grow up right from the start at a disadvantage. Center expects them to compete with CBSE kids with sound economic and academic background. Whereas these creamy kids will go on to work with only Fortis and Apollo, the rural kids on quota basis who attend medical schools will go back to their native villages to work for the poorest and tribal communities. What they may lack by book knowledge, they learn with valuable hands-on experience handling hundreds of OP as well as in-patient cases every single day in their public health centers/govt hospitals. It needs no mention that the swanky city hospitals today have book-thumping medicos with not great experience. The effects of our current NEET entrance will be known after a generation or two when the present serving physicians as we know them in health care industry will take retirement. Then we will pay for the mistakes of willfully neglecting the aspirations of poor malnourished rural kids who dreamt of one day going back to their native villages to serve their local communities. After all, how many Tamil films have had this single plot for storyline ?! In their place we will have super sophisticated English speaking medical professionals over-dependent on machinations and lab test results without instinctive diagnosis skills that can come with experience alone.

Posted in Economic

Don’t Please Shrink The Indian Economy…

Covid 19 unleashed the worst in our midst: a deep sense of insecurity over anything.

For one thing, none of us can be sure who it would strike next and to what extent it would be damaging. The corona virus scare is vicious. It is tending to be more and more of a chain reaction since this March when for the first time we had lockdown nationwide and even worldwide. Economy is at its lowest ebb, wave of unemployment surging, crimes spiking, driving men and women alike to frustration and depression.

Natural reaction for the pandemic among us has been to shut ourselves in from shopping, eating out, socializing etc. Northern Indian labour forces have faced criticism down south for years, but this is for the first time that we see a reversal of situation. Now we want them back even after the shameless unorthodox way we packed them back into trains to their villages. As lockdown eases phase by phase, the labourers are not seen returning in a hurry.

Nobody is simply indispensable and nothing is too very important over our own life. Perhaps Assamese and Biharis have decided to subsist on rations of PDS rice bags for the next 1 to 2 years ignoring our invites. Tight slap on those who want checks on labour movements. Now is truly the moment for lazy Tamil buggers to cash in. So what are you waiting for. Why can’t you simply down the shutters of Tasmac outlets and go for packing banians and knickers in Tiruppur textile factories. Why cannot you double up as kitchen and serving staff of our restaurant businesses. What stops you from giving us a nice pedicure in salons or from working the construction sites. Tamil Nadu is reeling under non-generation of income because our Bihari bhaias have deserted us. But for them, our local economy is in total shambles. This is an eye opener to anyone who boasts about regionalism talking petty politics. India is one single entity. Rest of India is waiting for our North East and Bihari, Jharkhand labour force to return to work. I hope never will they be shown disrespect or paid unjustly. I miss the courteous service of our Nepali waiters and the corner shop Momos and Pau Bhajis. Never shy of street food. Born and brought up in good old Madras, immune from anything to everything.

Together we grow, or alone we perish. Businesses continue to stay closed in Chennai even after government allowed relaxations, as the outstate staff are reluctant to resume work at our beck and call. Call center employees were mocked for their listless careers but since these online services now shut shop by 6 pm, cyber crimes spike after business hours when reporting has to wait for until next morning. No service is thus trivial. We have all been part and parcel of the same machinery that was running smooth until very recently. We could be the ubiquitous tiny nail, yet if we fall out of place, our vacuum can be felt by one and all bringing us all to a grand standstill.

This is why, we have keep this machinery of ours lubricated and functioning. The more we idle our mechanism, the more rust will we heap with our inactivity which in turn will take an even longer timeframe to recover and realign.

Let us play our role to keep things flowing, big or small.

To all those who stay away from shopping or eating out, I would plead not to shrink the Indian economy which is slowly coming to a grinding halt. Go out wearing masks, sanitizing your hands and maintaining social distancing. Help the economy expand if you can, in whatever miniscule way you can.

Sheltering overtly can also lower our immunity levels to my layman knowledge. Going out now and then can give you exposure and who knows antibodies, making you immune to the pandemic. So far as I have seen, the least exposed are the first and worst effected by covid 19. Working people and regular shoppers have mild cases even if they catch infections.

In India, numbers are rising because we are 1.3 billion nation. For such a mammoth population, 7 lakh cases is still miniscule considering especially the density of our population. Under 1.6% casualty mostly because of negligence. Covid care is too very good in India as our doctors now have developed practice in treating the viral infection. Very well tackled by both government and private medical centers, if it comes to that. Excellent recovery rate of over 80%. Coronavirus probably has mutated in India and is now like any other common virus, yet I do not want to underplay how devious and vicious it can be to those unfortunate among us.

First of all, let us believe that even if the corona virus gets us, we will be safe. And most importantly, we are saved from this horror for the rest of our lives. That we passed our exams! I know someone in late 70s who is covid survivor after having had major surgeries for last 10 years. My cousins who recovered from covid 19 say, they are relieved that their turn got over! No, do not believe it can return. You are immune for a lifetime if you get it, believe me.

Still Novel Coronavirus is beleived to stay around for another 1 to 2 years with or without vaccines. So should we live this period in fear and foul mood, crushing occupations and lives? Or shall we try to make the world a better place to live in?

  • Call back your house maid if you have dispensed with her services at the onset of corona. Never cut back on the salaries of blue colour workers who make our lives easy.
  • Get your groceries/provisions in the street corner ‘kirana’ stores typically ‘Nadar Kadai’ or ‘Petti kadai’ in Tamil.
  • Wherever/whenever there is a shortfall due to unavailability, procure groceries/provisions online, as much as possible through desi apps. Small vendors are also listed in volumes in multinational online apps, no harm in going for them either. In today’s globalized economy, we cannot lead insulated lives by ourselves. But as much as possible opt for desi apps if you can.
  • If you cannot eat out, you can still get food parcels. Never hesitate. If you stop eating out, the restaurants will cut down on food preparation and serving and kitchen staff. It will take them all the more longer time to open up to full capacity. Your demand generates employment for interstate populations.
  • If you still harbour doubts, order food at least once a week online.
  • If you are hesitant to shop for clothes and other consumer durables etc., in person, order online. Don’t stop shopping because you are not stepping out much. Life will pretty soon return to normalcy. Believe, you will be well alive and kicking to preen in front of your friends in your latest designer clothes. Shoes, bags, watches, clothes, cosmetics or whatever, go for it if you have not had a pay cut.
  • Do not wait to change your tv or automobile. These are big industries that require your patronage. Without customers if they close, thousands will lose work.
  • Use the services of roadside and other tailors, dhobis, auto walas, drycleaners, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and others adopting safety precautions. Employ them as you would under normal conditions in nonpandemic situations. Pay them fair and never bargain. Small traders and service people are most affected due to Covid 19 restrictions, remember.
  • Regularly buy groceries from street vendors. Remember they got food to your table when rest of the world ceased to function.
  • Patronize small professions like that of even temple priests. Every single life is important in our society needing nourishment. Every time you go out do not forget to get fresh flowers from the old lady in front of temples or enjoy tender coconut from the handstand of a coconut seller sweating under the shade of avenue trees.
  • Visit temples but practice corona lockdown safety measures. Your footfall everywhere counts. It means, you are playing your part in oiling the wheels of the Indian economy.
  • Ask the neighbourhood urchin to clean your car. You won’t get corona from him if you maintain safe distance. Sanitize later if you have to. Be courteous to watchmen, civic workers, traffic constables etc., who are working in stressful conditions.
  • Remember small traders, business community and hawkers and sellers constitute the backbone of the Indian economy.
  • One place you can stay away from is Hospitals. Avoid lab testing and opt for home testing. Now this is available in nook and corner of India.
  • If possible unsubscribe from all desi and international news channels and stop buying newspapers. They are nothing but rubbish. Don’t buy whatever the media pedals. Listen to music and read books instead.
  • Shopping malls are still empty. It is safer right now to go for mall shopping. Take advantage of this if you have to . Mall workers need their jobs as well.
  • Remember, right at this moment, every single one around you is under extraordinary stress brought in by the novel coronavirus. Something unprecedented. Not everyone has the same mentral strength to get through this crisis without physical, moral and/or economic support. In whichever way you can, help someone in need. Make a striking difference. It matters.
  • Last but not the least is the role of the health workers in our midst. Standing ovation to them for their tireless services in these hard times. Medicos or paramedics or nursing staff or civic/sanitation workers/janitors or pharmacists, they all are doing a wonderful job in saving our lives endangering their own precious lives. Hats off to them. Let us keep them in our prayers.
  • Not all courses are online. Some friends’ kids who are in medical college have to repeat their year. Let us be sympathetic to these kids. 2020 is not an year to talk about academic achievements or job prospects. Staying alive is the priority.
  • WFH or Work from Home has proved to an effective and ideal solution to many white collar professionals. It can be extended after the Pandemic is over once and for all, to reduce pollution and unnecessary investments in infrastructure, power usage, fuel etc. So not only is this a cost cutting measure, but an evolution in the pattern we work.
  • Covid 19 also has helped some alternate professions to expand: one is that of logistics. Another is packaging industry. Online shopping has touched a peak in the last 6 months and has improved cashless transactions greatly. Whoever was complaining about demonetization and linking of Aadhar-PAN cards and Phone Pe and BHIM/UPI payments is since unheard of lol
  • October-November will see high schools and colleges opening up in India, with the choice to return to the institutions left to students. Nursery, primary and middle school children will be missing one whole academic year. Which is good, take it from me. I homeschooled my son upto his 7th year in Malaysia. I was his first ever proper teacher.
  • The elderly can be miserable. Take time to talk to them and reassure them keeping a tab on their health parameters.
  • Hopefully interstate travel regulations will ease before December in India. From January I hope for international travel restrictions to ease. I am eager and waiting to fly back to my hubby! Yes, the trauma of divided families is indescribable. The stress we undergo is worrying.
  • Top up your health insurance at the same time. Corona or no corona, it is a must. Also add riders to your life insurance if you can.
  • Kal ho na ho…. well, i must not be saying this but enjoy life to the fullest when you can. Let us not wait for that special day to release our new kurta. Today is that day!
  • Fitness should not take a back seat either. At least walk in your terrace if you cannot go for any other workout in gym. Or take advantage of staggered timings of your reopened gym/yoga studio. Online classes also an option
  • Go back to your music lessons, art classes, other hobbies, sporting activities, clubs, cinemas, cafes, get-togethers firmly adhering to Covid 19 safety protocol. Never miss an appointment or opportunity to feel better.
  • With resorts opening, book your holiday adhering to safety measures with respect to covid. Nothing like taking a break in this season!
  • Cutting down on celebrations is happening but better minimize than eliminate festivity bills. Remember, the big fat Indian weddings are essentially great job spinners for people from different walks of life. Now we have sanitation booths in wedding halls/hotels etc. Catering and costumes to florists and jewelry and music bands, everyone can fit in in our gala traditional weddings.
  • Improvise, innovate, do anything that can employ direct and indirect manual labour generating income. Even a fraction of resumption of regularity and normalcy is welcome move. A big shot in the arms of our self-employed and businesses.
  • Keep the cash registers jingling in shops, small trades and businesses, enable cash rotation.
  • Invest in real estate and stocks. Now is the right time for going for long term investment plans. Buyers market.
  • Vaccines are around the corner. Wherever you are, you are safe and you will get it soon. If you are NRI based in Arab countries, rest assured, the oil rich nations will bulk buy the vaccines before rest of the world. If you are in America or Europe, then it means you are residents of nations that value human lives. They will not hesitate vaccinating their denizens in the first instance possible. If you are in India, hahaha, well we will be supplying vaccination shots to rest of the world. Manufacturing labs are ours, so rest assured. Modi ji will make sure that all 1.3 billion of us get a shot as soon as possible. Believe miracles are possible and this magic is what keeps the world going.
  • Meanwhile I enjoyed the videos of peacocks dancing in the highways of Rajasthan and pachyderms walking through the elephant corridors in India, without a care in the world. Covid 19 scare has changed me in many ways as it has affected everyone around me.
  • Grateful for all that life has bestowed on me so far. Absolutely no regrets. Positive thinking only. Positive vibes. Let us get ready to celebrate Navrathri and Diwali in all fanfare and welcome 2021 with a fresh gusto.
  • Indian economy is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s do our bit to the nation. Let’s rebuild India!

Together let us rise and shine!

Posted in Economic

INDIAN SPACE RESEARCH ORGANISATION (ISRO)

ISRO needs no intro and is much written about. So, just a pictorial journey here with ISRO that has captured the imagination of every single soul in this one billion club nation. From humble beginnings in Thumba to the present launch of Chandrayaan 2, India’s second Moon Mission to the darker side of the Moon, on the heels of Mangalyaan the Mars Mission, ISRO has come a long way. From being ridiculed and chastised for ambitious missions to being denied legit credit for original discoveries (such as water on the lunar surface by Chandrayaan 1), ISRO has not walked a bed of roses. After all, India’s first rocket was carried by bullock cart and on the pillion of a bicycle when we embarked on our space mission. ISRO has proved many critics wrong and in the interest of humanity, continues with its tradition of nationalistic and scientific pursuits undeterred by setbacks (such as a couple of unsuccessful attempts). ISRO’s Moon Mission 2 (Chandrayaan 2) cost India less than 50% of production costs for Hollywood’s ‘Avengers.’ (To be edited)

Posted in Economic

Who Are We Stealing From

Modi’s 10% reservation for the so-called economically backward FCs is the reason for this post.

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My part-time maid lives off my street. Hers is a dead-end. No thatched roof can be seen within city limits (except in north Madras extension areas that are fishing colony) but since this is a fag end of the street with no traffic, the civic authorities have spared the little murky corner. Coming from a dirt poor family, it is also true that my girl’s home stands out like a sore thumb in the otherwise crudely made out cement and concrete lower middle-class neighbourhood of hers.  Most constructions here were originally unauthorized but gradually regularized by the corporation who routinely ratify illegal tenements/housing/encroachments within city limits. Is there any other way of providing decent shelter to the poorest of poor in our metro (other than in Housing Board colonies that have sprung up for the purpose). Displacing the masses is unthinkable. One has to consider their livelihood.

Let’s call my girl ‘S.’ She  lives in a single room thatched hut – the walls are exposed brick work cemented in patches and whitewashed here and there. Her husband is a house painter. She shares the meager living space with her husband and 2 grown-up children. Her In-law occupies the adjoining room. She says there is a 4 feet verandah running in the sides where she has built a rudimentary toilet. When the Jayalalitha government installed for her a free hand pump, my maid’s water woes were temporarily solved. Now in harsher times, once again in her late thirties, she is back to running after the water tankers to fetch precious potable water for her family. Minimum of 20 times a day that is. Tanker stops at the street turning. Calculate the distance of one street, the weight of each plastic pot loaded with water, the carrying time and energy. This is going on for years sans a small break in good monsoon years. The girl suffers greatly with painful hips and excess bleeding thanks to the ordeal. The hand pump was a blessing to her. Now it is useless.

Water tanker dispensation is also not free. Is in’t strange that a valuable two rupee is levied by the tanker crew per pot (officially or unofficially) from the poorest whereas we the upper middle classes have all along sat back to enjoy the corporation water from our sumps paying a flat tax and water charge. Pittance compared to what the lowest and most unprivileged menial work labourers have to shell out for water. In fact this is a good part of their daily wages.

My girl was using wood/coal for cooking. I booked an LPG connection for her over 10 years back when she started working for me, and got her the first gas cylinder. I did not know then how much it saved her money and energy. Thankfully, she gets her subsidy credited to her account these days.

A day in my maid’s life dawns at about 4 am. She cooks and cleans for her family, packs lunch, leaves food for in-law (rich or poor it is a must in most families in India to take care of husband’s elderly parents; and parents prefer staying over at their son’s over their daughter’s). Later she comes to work for me. Returns to her home to do the dishes and wash clothes. Goes to sleep with the lights on by 10 pm. Her husband is the chief earning member. Daily he brings home 200 bucks which is big sum for them.

During monsoons (lean season), the husband whose painting job is not regular but seasonal, opts for any kind of manual work like cleaning homes, water tanks etc in the neighbourhood. It is predictable he is out of job for over a month or perhaps longer whenever the skies open up. That is when the family suffers the most.

Husband and wife are hard and sincere workers. Whether standing in queue for hours to get their rations supply from the govt PDS shops or taking care of their children and aged parents, they discharge their familial duties without a murmur. Beach and cinema happen once an year during vacations. Holiday means a 2-day bus trip to Tirupathi Balaji temple, a bi-annual pilgrimage for the family. For lower middle class India, temple towns are the Himalayan hill stations.

Even if poor my maid’s family celebrate all our festivals as it fits their capacity and are very religious. My maid fasts many more times than me, and her kind of unadulterated raw piety always impresses me. When I chant the Lalitha Sahasranama, she would adjust her work near my pooja so she hears me. She comes to work after showering, so makes fresh flowers into garlands for my Mother Goddess. She is always my temple companion. I tell her, Shakthi will be more delighted with her than me – because it is her devotion that is matchless. Mother sees what we the mortals cannot see. Mother notes what we the earthlings miss.

Even as she is steeped in such an abject poverty, my girl’s cheer and zest for life always bowls me over. There is so much to complain if she has to. But she never does that. And no gossip either. Virtues you find nowhere these days.

The family though suffers from a strange but severe stress: 

They sleep with their single tubelight on during the nights  – as otherwise they have to deal with rodent menace. Once their boy’s toe was bitten by a furry rat and he had to get a shot to overrule any viral/bacterial infection. Ever since the family do not dare switching off the light when it is bedtime.

‘How do you manage to even get a wink of sleep’ I ask my girl and she says as a matter of fact, ‘now I can’t go to sleep with lights off!’

Sleeping with the lights on…

I have no tears left in my eyes to shed for my girl. The single factor that she and family sleep with the lights on was on my conscience for days when I learned of it the first time.

Monsoon times leave her place with damp walls, wet floors, drains overflowing. I try to help by giving out blankets, food etc. Whatever we do is simply not enough I know.

My heart goes out to millions in this country who jostle up in dungeon-like quarters for shelter that they call ‘home.’ My girl is a lot luckier – she has someplace to call ‘home’ and she owns her small plot of 600 sq ft which is still a good bet in a city like Chennai. Think about the homeless.

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I ask my girl about her daughter always. I still love and long for my unborn daughter.

‘She is still bed wetting!’ said she the last time i inquired.

Her 15 year daughter, was in the habit of wetting the bed during sleep. I keep asking ‘S’ to refer to a doc but she says, she had had such an anxiety problem herself. Now combined with her menarche, the problem has worsened for her daughter. ‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ I asked her totally perplexed. The girl’s bed-wetting had totally slipped my mind. I could see the agitation in my maid’s face. I gave her a bunch of blankets. ‘Throw away the soiled ones. Use fresh ones, how much ever you want, ask me’ I said.

‘Akka my hands are aching washing the sheets day in and day out!’ she said, ‘our little house stinks and everytime my daughter has to change her napkin, we all have to troop out of the hut. Even if its midnight.’

How many ever bedrooms and bathrooms and wardrobes we have, we want more. How much ever clothes and jewels we own, we want new. Is ours the latest car? Cell phone? Well now, welcome to poor and miserable India. Come meet my girl ‘S.

We all come across so many, many stories in daily life, media and internet, but nothing moves me like this girl’s. I could get her a washing machine but its not advisable given the nature of their muddy damp walls. Besides there is not a square inch to spare. As such they live like cattle in a shed. The single room-hut serves as my maid’s family’s bedroom, kitchen and living. There is a tv, a fridge, a steel bureau and a cooking counter. Too many electronics and electricals to my comfort. There is barely any moving space and they sleep in the floor in a row. Any guests may mean, the family have to squeeze them in that cramped hole they call home. They don’t even use a ceiling fan – only a pedestal is possible in the low-roof thatched space.

My heart goes out to the little girl who has blossomed into a young woman last year. Where is the privacy the teenager desperately needs in this hour. The girl is upset and crying because she knows her condition and she is ashamed about it. She has no control over her bladder having slept with the lights on since the day she was born. And now onset of the menstrual cycle complicated matters for her. She is still a child – of 15 years. 

Quarrelsome abusive grandmother , alcoholic grandfather (who recently passed away), and an impoverished neighbourhood, the little girl seems to suffer from some suppressed emotions surrounded by misery from all sides, leave alone the economic condition.

I remember my doc’s warnings to me when my son was an infant and I was a working mom. That was a long, long time back. His first advice was to strictly keep the lights switched off after 9 pm so the baby learns the difference between day and night. My son stopped bedwetting in night hours under one year. He started sleeping the whole night around the same time, not keeping awake, giving me complete rest and full night’s sleep that I badly needed in those days. Many years may have rolled since, but whatever concerns my son as a mother, I never forget. (One more reason is, the Pampers (children’s napkin) commercial I see in tv bombarding Indian homes with misinformation and harmful ideas on parenting. Unhealthy things are wrongly promoted in the name of hygiene, soaking wet in diapers for hours is advised against quickest disposal of soiled napkins. Mothers of my generation never did that.) (My diapers I used for my son were my FIL’s old cleanly washed and cut white cotton dhotis! My MIL made a fine job out of them!) (That’s a keepsake for another blog post in future!) Anyway, things like these strangely remain in your memory forever for whatever reasons…

I think perhaps the girl would be alright with time. Would outgrow the habit. My maid who endured the same problem got okay only with her marriage. She was bed-wetting until her 18th year that is. Sudden thrust into married life must have done something to her psychologically. She says with her wedding night, she lost the bothersome habit unaware. I did not tell her, the reason was perhaps marriage freed her from her miserable existence easing her anxieties and giving her a sense of security. She needed no more to toil for hours in hot sun in farm lands in her village and walk back the long distance home to slog the rest of the waking hours until she went to sleep. Urban life was easy neither but comparably less daunting.

On my advice and on doctor’s the mother tries many remedial measures with the little girl. Like not giving her liquid food from the evening hours. From rousing her from sleep to take her to toilet every 1-2 hours. Still nothing works.

I said may be her daughter’s problem is hereditary. Then I suddenly remembered and asked her ‘Did you tell the doctor about sleeping with the lights on?’ She said no, she never thought that could be a reason. I said perhaps that is the main reason. My maid is too scared and shy to approach any doctor or psychologist any longer on the issue. She feels her daughter has grown too old for that. She is concerned about what her neighbours may think,. whether it would later on affect her daughter’s married life. How much ever I try to convince her to come with me to a specialist, she refuses. She believes her daughter will be fine some day as she herself grew out of the habit over time  …

May be she is right, we must try to ignore the problem. And the girl who is self-conscious up until now about the bedwetting would get alright on her own…

The mother and the girl – and their dreams and trials and tribulations… Its a moving story. I am ashamed of my nation, my society, of the class divide, of the insecurity of the masses, of the injustice they suffer from and more than all by the way they meekly surrender without a fight. They know they have lost it. What it is to be really poor and at receiving end in India – I am seeing before my eyes every single day.

The little girl’s menstruation coupled with the bedwetting habit totally funks me. Sleeping with the lights on…

The silver lining in the cloud is that hopefully one day in the future the teen girl will become a graduate – the first woman to earn a degree in her entire clan. So its high time her medical or psychological disorder is dealt with with the seriousness it deserves. More than anything, hygiene is important. If a qualified expert says all will be well without treatment, I am willing to consider that. Or whether the girl should wait until she marries as her mother says… Is it alright to meddle in others’ life. These are the questions I ask myself now.This is why I stop right here without overstepping certain boundaries.

What are the long term effects on health of individuals who are deprived for years, fitful night sleep. Is it normal to be in light all 24 hours a day – in sunlight during the day and electric light by the night hours. What are the psychological side effects. Very disturbing to think.

I keep calling my maid from wherever I am as I divide my time between places. Never fail to ask her about her daughter. She is getting her regular monthly periods. But the bed-wetting continues… The mother sometimes sounds tired and hopelessly sad. The men in the family – her husband and son are suffering in a way too. The little girl’s habit has now multiplied many times over. And then there is the grandparent to consider … ‘We all are keeping awake the whole nights for 5 days now every month’ said ‘S.’ Never have i felt more sick.

How many of us even bother to spare a moment to think of the lives of our house helps or drivers or cooks. Many times I think about helping the family with their housing needs but I decide, helping with the children’s education is more important. The family as I said, is very proud even if poor. Any extra help you may want to give them, they shy away with shame cursing their own helplessness. They are the kind of rural folks who can be easily wounded. They don’t want help – beyond a certain point. I am actually happy with that. How much they value self-respect, honour and dignity even in their desolate living conditions unwilling to compromise. What a difference from our politicians. And even our FCs who want to compare themselves with this poor lot of the nation. ‘Akka when my son starts working, he will raise a loan and build us a proper home’ says my maid.

I have tried to sleep with the lights on – never succeeded.

India’s issues are very complex, complicated. Poverty and gender discrimination and illiteracy compound to our woes. Those of us who are lucky are so very insensitive to care for those on who we tread over. Our greed snatches away the poors’ just share. Every 2nd or 3rd flat or house we buy, we are pushing the unfortunate into a further cramped dark corner.  Their petty world is bleak and hopeless. The day my maid told me she washed as many soiled sheets and mats of her daughter in their dirty bathroom after the night bed-wetting by her daughter on her getting her periods, I could not sleep in my comfortable bed. I tossed and turned for hours thinking of the girl, the family sitting or lying with the lights on, and mother and daughter making numerous trips to their dingy bathroom… the whole night… If I don’t feel guilty after this, I am not human.

Modi government, please think twice before any big decision/ruling. Be it Reservation or Land Acquisition. This is my hearty, earnest request to you. We can beat the mute and the invisible black and blue and they can take it, but it breaks my heart to see this happen to them. Industrialization, urbanization is necessary, but please do it without trampling upon our poor and squashing them into pathetic pieces. There is nobody to take their sides, nobody to argue their cases, they will give up easily – but think of the spirit we crush, the hopes we dash, the lives we crumple… I am certain my government will have some humanitarian considerations… If you have to uproot anyone at all, relocate them favourably.  Ambanis can have 27 storied palatial houses. The poor of India are not clamouring after big bungalows. All they want is to be left alone and not disturbed.

Giving the FCs of India equal footing with the suppressed and downtrodden communities of the nation is the most heartless injustice one can do to them. To be clubbed with their exploiters in one economic bracket is the worst thing that can happen to the poorest of India.

I have never felt as hopeless about my nation as I do now. Social Justice died a cruel death in India yesterday right in our parliament.

Posted in Economic

Will elite schools in India now open up to Municipal school kids? Agama Temple priests one and all? Modi and Yogi answer!

“Pichai Eduthaanaam Aandi, Adhai Pidungi Thinnaanaam Perumal”

So Modi has come out with 10% reservation for economically backward FCs fine. So is it now time to throw open the doors of city’s elite bunch of schools Churchpark, Vidya Mandir, PSBB, PSSS, Shishya, Lady Andal, Chettinad Vidyashram, DAV, SBOA, Maharishi and Rajaji Vidyashram to BPL family kids by the same logic? A reservation of 10% to start with? After all in India, discrimination/disparities stem right at pre-school levels. The school you attend defines who you are and your future. The rags-to-riches stories of Abdul Kalam and Ambani are one in a million. Otherwise for average Indians, it is rat race all the way. The gulf the society creates right in our Kinder Garten stage among the future citizens of the nation is already unbridgeable and extreme that under-devepment and poverty and the resultant Reservation criteria will have to become a vicious circle, with no option. Reservation comes into play where recommendations or carefully accumulated/cultivated intelligence of generations of well bred forefathers/ancestors cannot come to the aid of certain sections of our society. Reservation is thus the lifeline to the hopeless lot of poorest of Indians.

What reservations could not provide, recommendations/references have been taking care of for the upper middle classes. Schools to autonomous/deemed universities, the better-off of India have not been left out in the cold even in the so-called suffocating climate of Reservation. My autowallah makes almost 20-30 k per month in current times. He has always been able to give his family a decent living, being their sole bread winner. One of the things that touched my heart about him was, how his children were denied good schools because of his profession and because he and his wife were illiterates. Finally, he fought with a school management and secured his kids admission. Of course, they started with a clear disadvantage. Could not keep up with peers, could not follow up with brutal academics being first generation literates in their lineage. The poor father relented, pulled them out and enrolled them with a heavy heart in corporation school where the children at last could make some real friends. Denied bank loans as he can never produce a salary certificate, my autowallah still pawns his very source of income and livelihood : his auto (the three wheeled tuk tuk) if ever he has to change it/go for a new one or has to meet up with unexpected expenses. Whereas how generous India is with Ambani family, Mallya, Adani group.

Is not reservation meant for those like my autowallah. It is easiest to find excuses like the third generation dalit IAS benefiting out of quota system, in our urge to deny social justice to those who really deserve it. My maid who works for me for last 13 years for another thing. How come these men/women are in these menial professions, I ask myself. Where in India do we have dignity of labour about anything. Why is my subzi wala a subzi wala. Why is the corporation scavenger/sweeper in my street what he/she is. Why is not a FC working this profession. Why is a chakkili a chakkili. Why is a vettiyan a vettiyan.

Every FC who is rejoicing in Modi’s (anticipated) announcement today must ask these questions to himself/herself. And by the way if you are ever to enjoy an ancestral home, estate, heirloom, all the more reason to ask yourself, who and how your ancestors blocked from his/her path to progress that you could make it big today. Well, I do not know about my compatriots, but I sure do ask myself these tough questions.

These days one sees communist-bashing happening in a large scale in India. Communists are not a mushroom that sprouted out of nowhere. They may have become unfashionable today in the world of capitalism, but thanks to them, a lot of injustice has been corrected in the past as well. Someone has to ask the questions. Someone has to advocate. The ones who dared to ask difficult questions were probably called communists. Trade unions fought for just rights. Capitalist cronies can never figure out what it means by social justice and equality.

So reservation is social evil? Then why is reservation still practised in Agama temples throughout length and breadth of India, will Modi and Yogi answer? Not even the constitutionally granted Reservation Quota system could break the jinx could it? Salvation comes in many ways. But would it ever, to someone who by virtue of his birth (alone) has in fact the cheek to imagine that ONLY he was gene-selected and pre-programmed by God to serve His purpose in His abode over others.? How about opening a Vedic school cutting across communities and training priests for Agama temples impartially.

Recommendations can make an auditor an RBI director in India, so why should such a pampered community seek reservation. Recommendation plus Reservation to the privileged class could prove to be a deadly combo – lethal blow to India’s underprivileged. Very conveniently, Recommendations do not go into records.

Jayalalitha Jayaram, when she was Tamil Nadu chief minister, mandated a penalty of Rs.20,00,000/- for government medical college students who enrolled for their PG course at state expense – in case they were to opt out of three to eight years of rural health service on completion. Not sure whether the bond system still holds good in Tamil Nadu (after the NEET introduction in post Jayalalitha period: the only way they could do it). PM Modi must similarly enforce a strict penalty of minimum Rs.30,00,000/- on FC IIT undergrads and post grads and PhD scholars who graduate at the expense of tax paying citizens, if they want to flee abroad after having received the finest education the nation has to offer. Bond for IIT grads to be made mandatory.

Reservation for FCs can be compared to something like borrowing out of the beggar’s bowl. Though, Reservation is not a concession we are offering the most downtrodden and suppressed communities of India. Reservation is the compensation that they justly deserve.

Modi has been wrong in many matters. NEET for one. NEET they said got you medical seats on merit basis. Only that private medical institutions have since upped their antics in the knowledge of pricing it right for the right candidates. True medical colleges are accessible to aspirants today more than ever but there is a collateral that has been overlooked in the process.

Medical degree is unlike the technical engineering course. Medicine necessitates practice and intuition. Rural candidates in Tamil Nadu stood a good chance to medical admissions before the enforcement of NEET. On graduation, they went back to their villages and served the purpose, filling up void in the far flung areas and rural outposts. Reservation worked well on these grounds. How many NEET medicos of present times would serve rural India on graduation, will Modi answer. How long before Ambanis and Adanis take over our scattered village, taluk and district government hospitals and turn them to corporate businesses.

Like medical schools and hospitals, government of India also had established a banking network of thousands of service branches to cater to rural population along with post offices – not with a profit motive. Serviceability was the goal. Nation building was the idea. This is how the state owned banks have functioned for a good 30-40 years since the late 60s’ when the then PM Smt Indira Gandhi nationalized them in one stroke.

MBBS doctors in pre-NEET days were accorded service-record based MD/MS seats in government hospital-colleges after a customary entrance, on serving rural health centers for a length of time. No doubt quota doctors benefited immensely out of this which they passed on to the rural pockets they serviced. Depending on the discipline the MBBS doctors worked, their super specialty area was determined . No wonder a friend was 40+ when he won his PG seat finally in Madras GH/MMC after a 15 year practice. Experience counted and made difference. Now experience has no relevance as one sees how NEET has been securing the academically brilliant but practically nil experienced medicos the coveted PG seats. The friend who turned 45 when he finally added two alphabetical letters MD besides his MBBS is an epitome of knowledge with hands-on experience, no wonder. Diagnosis was accurate without the help of machines for these doctors of old school. The man served government hospitals in rural sector as stipulated by Tamil Nadu government for nearly eight years before he quit. Today we see under 30s so easily clear NEET PG entrance and secure the super specialty seats and MD seats in the state/country. And then making their way straight to swanky five star hospitals that bill /milk us patients in lakhs. Starting pay for these new age MDs is 1.5 lac, experience zilch but for a short stint that may be with private hospitals as well. Machines think for them. Thank you a ton Prime Minister Modi, what a great service to India in deed. And what a medical fraternity you have helped create for India’s future.

You think the former prime ministers of India, the men who drafted our constitution, the men who drew up our reservation bills did not do their home work? Probably they did a far better job than you. And a fair assessment.

I once had a procedure done with a lady gynaecologist who may not have been the brightest or ultra sophisticated in the block, but she was good with her hands. Quota doctor of course. She knew what she really needed to know. Just like midwives served the purpose until very recently not only in Indian but world history. More than learned knowledge, I understood it was a knack that you had to perfect in. A surgeon’s job is essentially a butcher’s. Only that, he/she knows the names to the blood vessels and arteries. Medical acumen comes from experience, practice, not to be gleaned out of mere journals and bound volumes of books. The community doctor’s ease and expertise, I did not find even in my regular hi-fi gynaec who boasted of a hotshot career. This one was known to me and she worked for a primary health center that charged me nothing. I was treated free. Ever since I have changed my opinion on reservation category doctors who muster experience with skill. This kind of medicos work with rural poor basically. They develop excellent rapport with nursing staff and paramedics. Primany health centers run by state government in Tamil Nadu are best in the line, run and managed very efficiently. The teams see infinite number of cases anyday. NEET just managed to destroy such a beautifully orchestrated, carefully constructed and self sufficient medical system in my state. I wonder what will be the future of these government health centers in the age of NEET aspirants. Whether the BPL family women will be comfortable with the suave NEET MBBS doctors who mostly pay their way to medical colleges?

Very soon, health care in rural India – the meticulously nurtured catacomb through the length and breadth of the country – will be replaced with sophisticated corporate business-like hospitals. Modifications? Ever since the IT boom in India from the 1990s, health care is already a mega buck maker, with health insurance companies playing an ace role in the scene. NEET is good, but the side-effects of NEET will be felt by poor rural Indians in the long run.

Indian judiciary prides itself that it is unconcerned of the guilty going unpunished using loopholes in the legal net. It takes care to ensure that not a single non-guilty is served with injustice.

Reservation in India must be viewed the same way. The idea has never been to exclude the creamiest but to include those disadvantaged by design. those living in the fringes.

India’s Karma is this. I , as an individual, cannot do much about it than empathize, given my limited capacity. But it is reckless of those in power to absolutely misuse their power.

For one thing, caste based quota system was enforced because social discrimination in India has always been and still is caste based. Reservation was devised as a formulation to correct the historical injustice done to certain sections of our society. For another, it is easy to manipulate one’s economic status and cook up figures. Reservation has still not been able to stop the FCs from furthering their goals because they have already established a deeply entrenched support system that will see them to economic safety whatever the circumstances. Things are in proper place for FCs.

Reservation is like parking slots for the disabled. Those who cannot get in can drive around and park elsewhere. They can still make their way to their destination. The disabled cannot, without difficulties.

I am based in gulf where it is not uncommon to see a particular state people from India holding advantageous position. A network. Some of us have not had such a helping hand in life. More than anyone, I have more merit and moral rights to air my views on Reservation.

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PS: Having said all this, I still hope, reservation of 10% for FCs materializes, for we can shut them up once and for all with that. Today, there is a tendency in India to downplay the achievements of the backward/stagnated classes who have made good with or without the crutch called reservation, fighting a tough battle all the way. First generation literates are mocked at, berated by those who have had headstart in academics and other arenas with plenty of opportunities thrown their way. India has never had a level playing field for everyone. After this move, the FCs will have none to blame for their stale genes or mediocrity.