Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lunch with Charlie Rose

The company I work for got recently bought over, and we had a big lay-off and the mood within the employees is at an all time low. Sorrow has descended on the floor and its silence all around most of the time. But on an individual basis I see people interacting more among themselves, sharing their thoughts more openly that before. The primary point of discussion is the everyone's problem of being on the list next time. The theme unites every one. This triggers more open discussions. It was as though the personal opinions have come out of the closet and more open comments on relevant topics without the class tier among employees. One thing I realized was unlike popular belief that people group/pool together better at happier times it the sad times that bring them more closer. Someone more famously told - the precious part of the human body is the shoulders. There would once be a time someone needs it to rest their head on amidst profound sadness out of uncertainty.

Re-enforces the most common political wisdom - we need common sorrows to unite people.

Everyone has the same concerns and they see themselves in others. This motivates more conversation/discussion and opinion sharing. It is a good sign but unfortunately wrong cause. May be that is why tight deadlines build successful teams.

Let us come to Charlie Ross story now - Recently I had lunch with my office co-workers. The discussion was about all topics. The crowd was of "opposite" nature to the way I think (I am the sick one). Things like fashion, dancing, partying were discussed. As always I was a patient listener with some occasional comments - sarcastic most of the time. At one point - someone told usually young crowd (this time girls) do not want to know someone who watches Charlie Rose's interview. This made me think.

For someone who do not know who Charlie Rose is - he is a relatively serious political commentator who conducts interviews with newsmakers. The interview is always with someone across a small table in a dark room to create a illusion of serious talk. It is just series of question - most of them relevant. Candid discussion. Most of his interviews are serious - he isn't talking to the guy who raises Panda somewhere or they guy who split up with some so called celebrity. He asks some tough questions (relatively to other main stream American media).

Watching serious political commentary cannot be a bad thing. Why has the younger generation lost interest in it ? Communist regimes were very careful in motivating ideology among the young people. But Capitalistic societies is losing out to trivial areas of interest. May be if there was something like world war or something going on - people would be more keen to the stories that come up on politics.
Politics and current affairs are part of life for everyone. Lack of interest on those is deeply worrying. Particularly among younger generation who are more tech savvy and live in their own virtual world. It is not that they are not important but they are less important. critical thinking is vital for people who are young. To do it., you need to understand people and their problems. Human race has come a long way from hunting and gathering. Those must be primitive. Now we have a modern world.

The majority of population has moved away from politics particularly in the western world and is spending more time in the virtual world like websites, fashion, vacationing, leisure. The younger generation is completely insulated from world problems/issues and an environment has been created that it is someone else problem. It is as though an international calamity - like a world war or a huge economic crisis is probably needed to unite the human mass. (just a comment)

Current affairs is not a boring topic that you can choose to follow or ignore. You follow it because it affects your life directly. Your decisions, life style depend on it. In the west, information that people get is heavily masked to create a sense of "everything is great and it can only get better".  

In the pre-world war two era there was a famous quote when Hitler was in power in Nazi Germany which is worth a mention here. The quote goes something like this.. First they came after the Jews. I did not worry because I was not a Jew. Then they came after the communist. I did not worry because I was not a communist. Then they came after the trade unionist. I did not worry because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came after ME. There was no one to help me.

Life is a mix of happiness and sadness. It is a mix that makes life interesting. It looks without the sadness in it., we will never be happy.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Economically viable : Right to escape disease

Seeman, the leader of Naam Tamilar party in Tamilnadu recently made a casual comment in a public rally that caught my attention. Seeman is well known for his anti-congress stand. He blasts the UPA leaders on policy issues and that part is not unexpected. But he took a swing against its president which is not often stated publicly, may be out of moral ethics and political decency. But is of course a truth.

He told (to para-phrase) - Smt. Sonia Gandhi, the ruling UPA chairperson and Congress party president had gone to the United States of America for her treatment to an undisclosed illness. The treatment for that cannot be availed in India. They have the money and can afford to go to a different country to extend their life but what will we the ordinary citizen do if we have the same illness and cannot afford to go else where for treatment. Should we then go to the graveyard to die ? These are the people who ruled us for more than 55 years. Are they not morally responsible for this situation we are in?

I believe - this was a passing comment by the speaker and he didn't venture into it further. But it does raise few valid questions.

We don't hear political opponents of the congress say this. The general perception is that the personal health issues are beyond politics. It would not be decent to raise such an issue in open forum. People always have sympathy when health issues are brought up. But why? Not even considering a open discussion on this is anti-democratic in my opinion. The media should discuss it and deliberate. The people on the dusty streets of India should know that their rulers are a step ahead and they may not be privileged enough when it would really matter. In a open democratic societies like ours - nothing is beyond deliberation. If there is a conscious effort to leave out this story and consider it not worthy of a discussion, then it is an insult to way democracy is practiced and should be thought of as agenda-driven. The media is orchestrated for its wealthy masters and not for the general mass.

People have a take away from this - these are universal truths - most importantly they are responsible for themselves. You have to be economically viable if you or your loved ones need to avail a facility that would enable you to live longer. Dependence on government for health benefits is suicidal. You are responsible for your loved ones. The government is just a foreign direct investment (to borrow Seeman's phrase). It just doesn't care about you. It might give you free rice, wheat. But don't think if you have a illness it will fly you out for a treatment to a advanced medical facility in a foreign nation. They will definitely leave you to die.

Of course the treatment is to escape diseases and not death.

In the 1980s, MGR was on a stretcher and was moved to USA for treatment for a terminal disease. With socialistic society, we were all told - the advanced western nations (capitalistic) have better ways of treatment. In Post 1990s liberalization - Indian leaders still go abroad for treatment. what a shame! it doesn't matter which political leader he or she is or which party they are afflicted to. Rulers are the nation's conscience. People of India look to them as gods. When they themselves are dependent on a service from a foreign country., Is it not a insult to the way of life in our country?  If the political establishments are skewed to another nation for a personal benefit - would it not lead to an unfair assessment in making political decisions. Just for argument sake, If Pakistan had the best medical facilities - will a Indian leader go there for medical service at a time of conflict within the countries ?

Whose fault is this for the current state of the country. In fact it is Congress that has ruled India for much of its post independence era. It has to take credit for whatever  progress that has happened and more importantly whatever that has not happened. If you have to think rationally - the policies and performance of the governments since 1947 have created more problems than they ever solved. Basic health and hygiene is absent in most parts of the country even today. Diseases like malaria, dengue fever which has been eradicated in most countries are still common causes of death in the urban cities of the country. We lose lakhs of people to this 'avoidable' illnesses.

India started off as a Soviet ally, and preached communist ideology in first 40 years of its self rule. It never became a communist state but with the government in all fields of business was essentially navigating towards that. And then the Soviet Union disintegrated and with the balance of payment crisis of the 1990s India started opening up its market to private players. Now after more than 20 years of anti-communist policies otherwise called globalization/liberalization, India is pertaining to a capitalist line of operation. It doesn't follow capitalism in its strict form either. It is somewhere towards it. So ordinary Indians have lived through both life styles. In spite of all this - health care system has not improved the way it should be. The leader of the government leaving the country for treatment summarizes its achievements in that field.

The common argument may be that the western countries are more advanced in science and technology and hence in health. So it would make perfect sense that India hasn't progressed because it is still a developing country. If this was true, why would Cuba be better in health care. There isn't any liberalization there. Life expectancy is higher in Cuba than in most scientifically advanced countries. Leaders from Latin America like Hugo Chavez, flew to Havana for medical treatment. So advancement of science promoted by privately owned huge corporations can only give better health care is a flawed logic. The government controlled Cuba medical system has proved it.

It is an under achievement in the health sector (just like other sectors) as a country. Poor health care - is because of serious government mismanagement in post-independence India.

We need to have policies that benefit our people. Blindly following the trend of the day - either communism or capitalism which works in other country (in a different set-up) is equivalent to a person forgetting that he has legs and dependent on a person who walks, to carry them around. They would take you to where they want and not to the place where you want.

The aspiration to live longer is universal. It would be a big failure if a huge country like ours is dependent on other nations for it. Scientific research has to be encouraged and health care needs are to be affordable to all. World class treatments should be in our cities and villages and not in New York or London. Indians are highly educated and scientifically smarter compared to others around the world. Their math and science skills are second to none. Technology has to be nurtured and promoted so that people from all over the world come to India for treatment and we do them all a service of affordable treatment at a reasonable pricing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Roll back Ordinance

Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president of the Congress party walked into the Press club meeting that was in progress with the congress spokesperson Mr. Ajay Makken, and threw a bomb shell to unexpected press, saying the recent cabinet ordinance to protect convicted leaders was a "nonsense" and it deserves to be torn and thrown out. The press was caught off-guard. The Prime minister was out of the country and had to release a press statement that the matter would be discussed when he is back in the capital.

Recently Supreme court of India ruled, that any person who is convicted of punishment that exceeds two or more years of imprisonment stands to lose his legislative representation as an MP or an MLA immediately. This is welcome step as part of cleaning up Indian politics.  It is hard to disapprove with the Supreme court ruling because, Indian politics has recently seen a rapid rise of leaders with criminal backgrounds and pending legal cases against them including murder and multi-crore corruption scandals. The civil society welcomed this decision overall. Just when you thought something was going to change positively the UPA government stepped in. The plan was to pass an ordinance that will over rule the Supreme Court ruling where by it allows convicted law maker to hold on to their MLA/MP seats, until the legal case is decided by the highest court - Supreme court. Shockingly most parties except very few like Biju Janatha Dal, CPI, Aam Aadmi Party  didn't utter a word against it.

In India legal cases run for decades not years. The probability of a neta being convicted UNTIL the Supreme court are very less. You have to be really (really) unlucky for this eventuality to happen. If the convicted leader can hold of to be a representative of the people even after conviction in lower court - he might rewrite laws to suit his immunity. Isn't it a bad precedent for the younger politicians ? If a verdict of the lower court is not that important why do we even need a lower court. Can all legal cases be dealt by the Supreme court directly which has the final say? Recent scams that have happened in UPA - every time a major fraud is unearthed, say its 2G, coal gate, housing for fallen soldiers, Railway recruitment scam - there is a ritual that happens. You can loot as long as you get caught. As soon as you are exposed - you just have to "resign" as a minister. Just that. Media shames you for a day or two. This is publicity too. At least your name is uttered across the nation across newspapers and TVs. If smart, you can always make a comeback when the dust settles. How may times have we seen that? Then you can continue living your normal life as a MLA or a MP. Of course a FIR will be filed but you don't have to worry about it - the legal petition wouldn't see the day of light. Some ministers went to Jail recently which is true - it gives a illusion the system is working - But where are they now? Out there having fun from the money they stashed out during their hey days. There would be no legal recourse. I don't believe they will even be punished one day. Even if they did - it will be too little too late.

After Rahul's nonsense comment (which was nonsense since day one when it got introduced) - the Cabinet met and rolled back the ordinance. BJP - which is main opposition didn't jump at the opportunity and was inline with the government on the motive of ordinance since day one. what a shame?  Even though the social networking sites / media / public opinion was against the ordinance - BJP was dumb enough not to have picked up this issue. Finally Rahul Gandhi emerged the sole winner with all of UPAs allies finally decided to tore and throw the ordinance out. Rahul Gandhi looks "Prime minister" ready now for some.

Lallu yadav, the RJD supremo became the first victim of the roll back. He was convicted by a lower court and was handed down 5 years imprisonment and will lose his MP seat. Kapil Sibal's effort to save Lallu with the ordinance didn't work out this time. finally at least we see a neta go to jail for a corruption case. That was after 17 years. Wonder what you did for your birth day 17  years before? that should have been the important day of the year..think.. you don't remember?? no one remembers. 17 years is really lot of time. Cannot believe it took 17 years for a court to come to a conclusion. Hard to convince the people of the country to trust in the judiciary.

Only punishment will clean up Indian Politics. All people who break the law must be punished without sympathy. Speedy justice within accepted time line. People would trust the government and judiciary only then. Until now - it wasn't working. Lets see in future - if the Supreme court decision will refine out the bad neta's and make only genuine and honest politicians rise in stature and power.