Sunday, March 5, 2017

This was written a few years ago. Today (6 arch 2017!) when I opened the site I saw this draft and thought that it should stay. Also one would like to add a few more which are enumerated in the next blog. 

The Small pinpricks that became festering wounds 

It  would be good to recall the small pinpricks that the erstwhile government inflicted on the people in general. One is really amazed at  the insensitive and callous attitude of the people who took decisions at the top. Let us enumerate  some of them:

1. Currency Notes. The government has already stopped printing one and two rupee notes. It was expected that the withdrawn notes will be replaced by equal number of coins. However it seems the government  mints supported by imports if any were not able to meet the gap fully. Then they decided to equalise the size of the two coins. So now you  have a larger 2-rupee coin and a smaller one rupee coin,   trying unsuccessfully to fill the gap. And now it seems the govt. has stopped printing 5-rupee notes. Who took decisions       in this regard? Had they left the decision in such a lowly matter  to a Section Officer?
It was said that very soon  plastic noes will be printed, but we have yet to see them.  

2. The Cooking Gas Muddle: It would be interesting to know as to what has the government achieved by reducing the no. of unsubsidised cylinders to 6 which was increased to 9 with support from the State Govts. and ultimately the government bowing down to pressure to increase the number to 12. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

60. Separation of Powers in India

Separation of Powers

In college we were taught the separation of powers, a model for the governance of a state propounded mainly by Montesquieu and Locke. Briefly stated, the system is that that the state is divided into branches, each with separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that no branch becomes more powerful than the other branches. Typically the government has three wings: legislature, executive, and judiciary. It may be noted that although Montesquieu specified that the independence of judiciary should be real and not only apparently,  but at the same time  he said that the judiciary was generally seen as the most important of powers independent and unchecked, and was  also considered very dangerous.

In the British India there was some overlap of judicial and executive functions at the bottom in that in several minor criminal acts, powers were given to   executive magistrates to try and punish the offenders. Preventive actions under the CrPC were with the executive. However, the amendments brought in Cr.P.C. in the early seventies clearly separated the executive magistrates from the judicial magistrates, and the judicial powers were mostly taken away from the executive. Over the years one observes that very slowly the judiciary has acquired more powers than was probably intended by the framers of our constitution.  True it is the right of the judiciary to examine whether a certain law is valid  in accordance with the constitution, but sometimes it has even  made laws, as with the order that those politicians who have been convicted cannot fight an election, and more, those in jail also cannot.

Then India is probably the only democracy where the Supreme Court appoints itself. And this has been done by a judgment of the Apex Court.

Sometimes the courts have gone to the extent of monitoring  day to day progress in a project as in the construction of a road. Sometimes they have given direction to expedite rescue operations as in Uttakhand.  To be fair, the judiciary has stepped in when the executive failed to do its duty, and to that extent is responsible for seeing their power of implementation and superintendene  interfered with. My own feeling is that the watershed in the relationship between executive and judiciary came with the Babri case where the executive dropped everything in the lap of the judiciary and  washed their hands of deciding the issue. True that there was some merit in taking such a decision but such abdication brought a distinct change in the governance in the country. Anyway this is my interpretation which may or may not be agreed to by many. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

59. Rapes: An Unpalatable View

Rapes: An Unpalatable View

More than half a century ago when I was in the school, some of my class mates who either lived in  nearby  villages or because of distance, in a hostel, were married. The trademark was a shiny wrist watch. Sociologists agree that one of the reasons for child marriage in India is the lack of safety in the villages for young unmarried maidens, especially during the time of morning outings. Biologists say that man’s libido is at its peak at 18. In many gang rapes, the most violent acts have often been committed by a juvenile.

India is not like the western country where the sexual mores a little more liberal. Also there is  more free mixing of the sexes there than in India.

So is the Sharda Act the real villain? Do we have to do a rethink on the age of marriage which has now been increased?

In India the minimum legal age at marriage is 18(F)/21(M). Age of consent is 18. Statutory Rape is 15. The bill to reduce the age of consent to 16 has been vigorously opposed. Compared to India, the legal minimum age for marriage in Indonesia is 16/19, Iran 13/15, South Africa 12/14 and Turkey 14/15.  For  European countries, France 15/18, Germany 14/18, Russia 16/18, Spain 14. In the various states of US age of consent is 14 to 18 and age at marriage 16 to 18 years. In Australia the age of consent is 16, and age at marriage 18, although it can be reduced to 16 with one parent’s approval and a court order. In Britain age of consent is 16. No minimum age has been prescribed for marriage (female), and married couple allowed to have sex so long as female has reached puberty.

The average age of marriage in India and Pakistan where marriages are generally arranged by parents it 17 years, many brides are married as early as 15. My mother was married at 16, and so was my uncle’s daughter. Marriage for girls above 20 was looked at suspicion or was the result of loss of breadwinner in the family.

In spite of the marriage age fixed at 18/21 in India, how many parents or couples with ‘illegal’ marriages been actually prosecuted. News comes of mass marriages of one community or the other, sometimes even presided   over by political dignitaries, with charges of child marriages.

Looking to world figures, I think India has been a little hasty in pegging the age at marriage at 18/21. When The age of majority is 18, and voting age 16, are we justified in keeping  marriage age to be 18/21.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

58.The Deluge in Uttarakhand


My friend Rameshwar showed me this passage from Jim Corbett’s ‘The Pilgrim Road’ included in ‘The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’. It is worthwhile quoting the para here:

‘Three days journey up the left bank of the Ganges and you  have reached the ancient capital of Garhwal, Shreenagar, an historic, religious, and trading centre  of considerable imporatance and of great beauty, nestling in a wide, open valley surrounded by high mountains. It was here, in the year 1805, that the forebears of the Garhwali soldiers who have fought so gallantly in two world wars made their last and unsuccessful stand against the Gurkha invaders, and it is a matter of great regret to the people of Garhwal that their ancient city of Sreenagar, together with the palaces of their kings, was swept away to the last stone, by the bursting of the Gohna Lake dam in 1894. This dam, caused by a landslide in the valley of the Birehi Ganga, a tributary of the Ganges, was 11,000’ wide at the base, 2000’ wide at the summit, and 900’ high, and when it burst, ten billion cubic feet of water were  released in the short space of six hours. So well was the bursting of the dam timed that, though the flood devastated the valley of the Ganges right down to Hardwar and swept away every bridge, only one family was lost, the members of which had returned to the danger-zone after having been forcibly removed from it.’

Were the Britishers more humane and better administrators than the Indians?

Not that the warning was not there. The Commandant of a Training Centre evacuated the entire School before it was washed away the next morning. Did he have some information that the District Administration did not have?  The  overflowing of Vasukital glacier lake hs an uncanny resemblance to the  bursting of the Gohna Lake dam. June 15 was enough of a warning before the real disaster in the morning of June 16. True, the weatherman’s warning often becomes a routine, but it was there. But it is easy to have a hindsight. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#56. When You Grow Old

Snippets from a Senior Citizen’s Life

I have a suit length which was gifted to me in a marriage. For a couple of years I have been thinking of getting it stitched. At the onset of winter this year, I asked my wife for the piece so that I could go to the tailor. She hemmed and hawed, and the net result was that I was deprived of a new suit this winter also.

Then the other day, one of my friends from another town turned up, and over a drink he told me  a funny story. His father-in-law died sometime back. A few months before his death he had got a few clothes stitched. Maybe some shirts, trousers, pyjamas. After his death when my friend’s wife saw those almost new clothes her mother exclaimed, ‘I had told him what was the point of getting more clothes now when he could pop off any day!’ I got suspicious, and asked my wife who was nearby whether that was why she did not give me the piece. Her prompt reply was that I already had too many from before , so much so that there is hardly any place left in the cupboard to keep another suit. Then Gwalior has such short winter. I hope she was being truthful.

I remember one of my colleagues whose dress sense I had always appreciated. The other day I met him in the Gymkhana. He was wearing an expensive kosa silk bushshirt. It had seen better days, and true to the nature of old clothes, the fabric had ad gone smooth and shiny, losing the typical rough kosa texture.

Should we really stop going for new clothes when you grow old?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

#55. WAMAN and poor Bali

Waman and poor Bali

Everyday when I open the newspaper with trpidation that there would be news about
 increase of price of some or other commodity. And most of the days my fear
is justified. I thought I would record such news from 9 January onwards.
In the week preceding that, PM hinted at further increase in the prices of
petroleum products, and support price of foodgrains was increased.
 In the last week of December 2012, when I sent my gun licence for renewal,
I found that the State Govt. have levied processing fees of Rs. 500 for 12 bore,
Rs. 2000 for rifles and Rs. 5000 for pistol/revolver. Somebody pointed out that a person
will have  to shell out as licence fee for a pistol or revolver during his lifetime more than
the purchase price. The basic licence fee is between Rs. 50 to Rs. 150. 
this steep hike was challenged in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, and whereas one
bench set aside the order of the government, the other upheld it. So the matter
stands as it is.

Thursday 10.1.2013

Petroleum Ministry is going to submit proposal to the cabinet that the diesel
prices be increased by one rupee per month till the loss is covered..(This was
later confirmed by the cabinet, and the price would be increased by 40 to 50
paise per month).

Friday, 11.1.2013
Jeewaji Unjversity Gwalior has increased the college and course affiliation
fees by 2 to 4 times. Ths will obviously reflect in the fees charged by the affiliated
colleges from the students.

Wednesday, 16.1.2013

  1. Petrol prices increase by 40 to 50  paise per litre in some parts of the country.
  2. Maruti Suzuki increase the price of their cars by about Rs. 20,000 across the board.

Thursday 17.1.2013

  1. Metro prices expected to go up in Delhi.
  2. Non-subsidised LPG cylinder price to go up by Rs. 47 to Rs. 1096.

Friday, 25.1.2013

Oil Ministry has proposed to the government that domestic gas prices be nearly doubled. This would push the price of gas-fired power by about Rs. 1.50 to 2 per of unit. Public transport
would also become more expensive due to cascading effect    on CNG/PNG prices.

Sunday, 27.1.2013

  1. Onion prices all over the country increase by Rs. 5 to 10 per kg.
  2. Rajdhani, Doranto and Shatabdi train fares to increase by about Rs. 15 to 20
because of increase in catering charges.

A couple of points:
1. Most of the price increases have been in the petroleum products which unfortunately have a cascading effect.
2. One has serious doubts about the costing principles which require so frequent changes in the prices. Do the companies add some costs (e.g. fixed costs# which they normally should not, or at least their weightage should be much less?
3. The tendency of the said companies to effect such price increases have emboldened several other agencies to increase prices which otherwise they would have hesitated, or at least postponed, or phased/spread over a period.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

#54.Of Urdu, Sanskrit and Indian Classical Music

Urdu they say is a dying language, at least in India. Very few people write in it, and the spoken Urdu is so similar to Hindi or Hindustani that it is difficult to maintain its separate  identity. Recent;y Justice Markandeya Katju (Retired) known for his caustic comments came out with a statement in a TV programme that every student should learn Hindi, Urdu, and Sanskrit upto Class VII. In principle it looks fine, but you cannot escape adding English to the list, and you burden the young mind with four languages, all belonging to Indo-European group of languages (Hope it is correct for Urdu as well). That is worrying as the students are already overloaded. They study science, bio-sciences, mathematics and geography, history, and social studies  are a must- so how do we go about it? One solution could be to include Urdu in Devnagri and not Arabic script, with difficult Urdu words which are taken from Arabic and Persian explained in simple Hindi. This is not uncommon. Most of the Urdu Shairi printed in Devnagri script follow this. And many Urdu novels too. Sometime back I read Qurraatul-ain-Hyder's Kagazi Pairhan in Devnagri script where meaning of difficult Urdu words were given in simple Hindi as footnotes, and throughly enjoyed it. Then I purchased Aag ka Darya hoping to repeat the experience, but was sorely disappointed. The translator had changed the language to Hindi, and that was murder of the book. I heard a cynical view that the only reason why Firaq is not accepted as the greatest Urdu poet after Ghalib was his religion. I frankly don't know how to react to that. I have not read Urdu literature so deeply. But all said and done, the only way Urdu can survive in this country is by bringing some fundamental changes in the teaching of Urdu. And that brings me to the need for retaining the softness of Urdu. Softening the letters as in zang and Khoon instead of jang (which would change the meaning of the word) and khoon (with no softening of kh) is the real flavour  of the language which is absent in Sanskrit. We have adopted the pronunciation of toilet and pen in its originality in Hindi so why not the soft letters of Urdu? Of course it would make it a little more difficult for the  students, but if an Englishman can adopt the softness of French with a lot of nasal accents so why can't we do it for Urdu?

Something about the teaching of Sanskrit which I have felt so strongly. Have you  ever learnt by heart the conjugation of some word, like go-went-gone, and do-did-done? So why force the student to learn the roops of some word? Natural reading would instil the correct  usage of roop  and not mechanical mugging which has made Sanskrit the most hated subject in the school syllabus. The second drawback  is the weakness   of Sanskrit teachers for joint words (sanyuktakshar).
I feel that where possible, joint words should be broken down instead to make it simpler for everybody. I remember about a postman coming to famous Bengali novelist Sharat Chandra and asking him whether he knew somebody by the name of Machchhar Chadra. Sharaat Chandra asked to show him the envelope, and after seeing it said thoroughly embarrassed that it belonged to him. The sender had used the sanyuktashar for the three words: Shrimat Sharad Chandra! 

Speaking of classical vocal and  instrumental music of India may be a little out of place here. But if our masters  concentrate more on gayaki instead of the grammar, probably more people would be attracted to it. You learn the grammar of music to  make your gayaki better, so why in concerts we should hear for a long time the grammar followed by a short spell of the real gayaki? I know that I am venturing into a heresy but that is how I always felt.