Book Review: Turning Point

What an Inspiring, and fitting sequel to the ‘Wings of Fire’- An autobiography of Kalam which covered his life up to 1992. The turning points is all about his ‘missions’ thereafter ‘to connect the billion hearts and minds of the people of diverse India, with its glorious past and challenging present, through development’.

It’s covers his experiences before and as the President of India, unanimously elected and the most ‘interactive’, ‘humble’, ‘reformative’, ‘visioned’, ‘accessible’ and ‘active’ president India has ever known, from ‘one among us’ he went on to hold the highest constitutional position transforming the office of president itself. Rather than performing the role merely as a titular head defined by constitution, tradition and precedence, he enliven his office, making it more accessible and efficient by introducing e-governance(his tool to a borderless world) initiative in Rashtrpati Bhawan, he reached out to people and made them to feel a part of the growth and prosperity of the nation and give them a stake in government. Not only figuring out enormous and huge activities, contributions and principles that he could perform from this position, and he didn’t merely ‘suggest’, he outshone as always and acted and implemented every goal or activity as a project with well-defined timelines, funding and responsibility, in a ‘mission-mode’ with his vision to make India a developed country by 2020 (there is a heavy dose of ‘India 2020 vision’) and to see 21st century as a knowledge society where science, technology and environment will work together to unleash exciting possibilities.

He truly worked for the ‘public purpose’ and deciding on the basis of what people needed, rather than what a few wanted. This book more than just ‘inspires’! It shows the India from the eyes of its ‘people’s president’, once again not forgetting to mention small accounts and events in his journey from which he never forgets to learn, these includes many ‘noble lessons’ that he learned from many around us, all of these are ‘must-read’ and if possible to practice in life.

Turning Points is a blueprint for making India a developed country. It is about how he used his position to inculcate in president’s office and the governance of the country, highest level of reforms, optimizations and efficient mechanisms, be it legislature, judiciary of executive, he touched them all discussing, analyzing and proposing highest standards to achieve for them. Not restricting himself to the ‘routine operations’, he worked effortlessly with all the MP’s and CM’s of the country to make plans for their constituency and states, doing extensive research to come out with core competencies of the states and goals to be achieved for them. He innovated the idea of PURA(providing urban amenities in rural areas) to make villages self-sufficient, developed and part of knowledge society of 21st century.

As a icon for the ‘Youth of India’, he devoted his life, working on a vision, to see India developed with the help of its youth and it’s with this mission that he lived the life at Rashtrapati Bhavan focussing specially on education, health and economic development which is percolated throughout the country in an equitable manner.

In due course, he mentions some controversies which he faced during his office, one among them the retuning of ‘Office of profit bill’ to the parliament, this was the first time that a bill was retuned back to parliament for reconsideration. He explained and justified all these issues from his own perspectives with the events that led to them. He is also concerned about the declining standards of our parliament.He feels that parliament is not at all serious about the problems of the common people.

He has given special emphasis on giving directives, suggestions, cautions to our political parties and legislature along with necessary and righteous critic, to advice them to rise above the ‘petty themes’ and what is needed for the country to make it move ahead i.e. indulge and perform in an environment of developmental politics keeping nation always above personal interests as he himself did as clear from ‘the experiences’ he had during his tenure. Taking note of some contemporary development in the Indian politics he cautions against such behavior by saying that ‘when politics degrades itself to political adventurism the nation would be on the calamitous road to inevitable disaster and ruination.

This isn’t just one of the must-buy, must-have and must-read book, rather its one of those rarest pearl that is to be cherished and preserved. The book is full of his one liners, poems, and inspirational quotes. Though I liked them all, I am mentioning one that touched me at this moment : “Conscience is the light of the soul that burns within the chambers of our heart.”

Democratic Disasters

Talks of democracy, corruption and rights are the new fads in the town, thanks to the vibrancy of civil society and mass movements lately, which has caused awareness among the masses, who have patiently waited long relying on democratic means and its visible symbol of politicians and bureaucrats. Its the rising middle class who for long was clutched in the shackles during the License Raj with socialist policies. Today this people are coming out for these movements for ‘They are out of other ways’, anyone suggesting ‘democratic’ means should reconsider the time they they have already spent trying with these methods.

As the faces of democracy, our leaders have left no stone unturned to disclose the ‘worst methods of discussion and behaviour in the best places of discussion and conduct’. We teach our children the value of discipline in schools, the importance of discussion, the significance of debate and to have an attitude of tolerance towards other’s views. When the same children grow up to see the unholy violations of these pious principles of democracy by their representatives (who think that by giving a vote people gives them the absolute right to dictate and serve personal and vested interests), in the very place made for debate, don’t they have the ‘right to ask, right to complain, and right to demand’ for the formulation, regulation, implementation and punishment for same rules of disciplines to uphold the democracy which apparently is the ‘only’ thing to be proud off after six decades of independence, lately this reason too is vanishing for the symbols of are proud democracy are being ruined stone by stone.

It is the same platform that they call other for discussion in order to save their governments when people’s popular protest rises beyond their control. I have no doubt in saying now that its ‘mainly’ the political class which is responsible for all the violence, exodus, insurgency, or religious clashes, for those who can’t restrict themselves from violence and vulgarity during the time of discussion, debate and talks on the platform which they term ‘supreme’ (mind you in India, Parliament isn’t supreme rather its the Constitution that is by ‘We the people’).Its highly unlikely that they would not do much more behind the walls of Lutyens bungalows.

As it the delays of coalition weren’t enough to explain the inaction of the government, as if the government hasn’t already done much loss, as if our proud image isn’t already blotted, opposition doesn’t understand the most important role it has and can play in the democratic structure to bring the government to accountability, that’s because everyone is busy either dreaming for the ‘Gaddi’ or too busy making potential dialogues for the Bollywood. Thanks to our bureaucracy which has become too subservient, influenced by patriarchal values, and too elite that mo more the recklessness of their leaders bothers them.

What’s the way to restrict these blunders being committed openly? Its likely that such events will encourage violent elements to disturb peace, for if the people symbolizing the ideals in the constitution can do so, without any shame, without feeling sorry and without any apologies.

When we can arrest people who try to create awareness through cartoons for the charge of ‘sedition’, its no less than ‘death sentence’ we should award to those destroying the reputation of our democracy and its symbol, those who are using communal comments to destroy the social fabric of brotherhood and ethnic tolerance without any restraint on their boorish voices and barbaric actions.

Action paralysis and control through comments !!!

Paralysis of policy is something which has become an integral part of UPA -II, owing to coalition pressures, lack of popular leadership, pulling of strings by civil society, or may be due to excessive showcase by Didi-Mamtaji that nothing moves in this government without her will! This phenomenon is now certified even by president Obama, who seems to forget the condition of American economy! And the protectionist approach which is used by him, similar to what India is doing now, but for some reason he isn’t but we are at fault, this is what happens when you are head of the most powerful state in the world!

But a new environment is slowly emerging overshadowing the policy paralysis, which is doing much greater harm than lack of policies, and this new development is the phenomenon of ‘paralysis in action.’ New laws will keep on coming with changing times and according to the dynamic socio-politico and economical environments, but the problem isn’t solved merely by bringing out a law for an existing problem, in fact the law may not be needed in some cases if the executive executes the existing laws, utilize its resources to make dynamic decisions, evolve out of the box solutions according to geo-political situations and involving society through meaningful dialogues with ‘social partners’ of the government, namely the farmers, trade unions, business groups, civil society and better integration of these social groups with the institutions of ‘panchayati raj’. Making them the intrinsic part of the decisions and planning to bring about an inclusive approach in development and grievance redressal. 

Executive actions are very much visible in activities of demeaning democracy, where dissenting against the will of state are deemed as of Maoist’s and are landed in jails, even expressing opinions in form of cartoons can land you in jail, maybe for saying this, I too may be put behind bars! Growing intolerance in our multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-sectoral diversity does no good in our democracy and it is the cause of growing acts of violence and separatism  tendencies. While our ‘opposition’ has taken its role too literally in meaning opposing everything rather than utilizing the platform provided by the parliament to grill and expose the government on its failings, the party take pleasure in obstructionist theatrics, leading to the unfortunate impression that the principle opposition is dodging the debate either because it is not well-armed with facts, or worse because it has something to hide. 

The executive branch rather than working just on orders and prescriptions, should survey the problem on the field, involving society in this task, and than through discussions and debate, find out the problem rather than heeding to the advice of the seniors or working without feeling the problems of the people. In the time of ‘leviathan media’ as the fourth pillar of our democracy, leaders are happily commenting on camera’s about policies, problems, initiatives and it also serve as a ground to make hysterical comments about opposition and its the same people who leave no stone unturned on the ground to criticize, fight and interrupt, while they are given a chance to speak, discuss, deliberate and function inside the house of People or the house of elders (Parliament), thus it seems that country is ‘running on comments’! 

What’s the solution to this? Well, Well, rather than be happy with this state of affairs, or relying on yet to come electoral reforms(if Lokpal isn’t a reality after decades of efforts and a revolution, I am not sure that needed reforms are very near unless ‘many’ right minded people replace the current ‘morons’ in the political system), I therefore, will favor, some radical, non-violent, democratic, participative approach, like trying to gather support for introducing a very strict and punishable discipline bill, regarding the behavior of parliamentarians in the house, strict code of conduct for media groups, and total awareness of political initiatives and reforms in society.

Discovering Democracy

Rarely any day passes in the current political scenario without reading or hearing about great ideologies, movements, protests and struggles all of which are contributing there bit to achieve their rights, privileges, dues and demands in the democracy. This brings us to the an inquisitive, controversial and necessary question that why do we call our polity a democratic one?

After all what is democracy? Does a written constitution means democracy, or does giving human rights means democracy, or adopting universal adult suffrage means democracy (every adult can vote), or does elected government means democracy, or does constitutional safeguards means democracy, does rule of law ensures democracy, does doctrine of separation of power ensures democracy, does freedom to protest means democracy and if all of these ideas and practices doesn’t mean democracy, what exactly is the meaning of this popular word, what exactly is needed to achieve and fulfill the idea of democracy?

From what I perceive, above methods, safeguards, ideologies, methods, and provisions are merely a part of what democracy really is. They in itself doesn’t means that democracy is achieved but they are nevertheless indistinguishable part of democracy, for all these things are mere mediums to achieve democracy, democracy in real terms is an environment of liberty, equality, justice and fraternity (words duly mentioned in our preamble). From what it sounds like the definition seems utopian, but democracy isn’t just about grating and adopting certain ideas, provisions, philosophies, and practices, for these merely ensure that one has a medium do achieve democracy, for democracy in real sense is a situation, a condition, an environment which ideally is never achieved but from right minded people to democratic governments or its organizations all are committed to achieve democracy by first ensuring that the required means are in place and then thriving to reach the enshrined targets, goals, ideas and aspirations set in these means to provide with such a an ecosphere of polity and governance which values and guarantee the aspirations and ideas of its people.

Book Review: The Argumentative Indian

The Argumentative Indian in its sixteen linked essays, Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen discusses India’s intellectual and political heritage and how its argumentative tradition is vital for the success of its democracy and secular politics. The Argumentative Indian is precisely a concise version of how India evolved from its past, its not a historic narration, for it traces the roots of today’s India, in India of ancient and medieval times but is never near to mere chronological representation of events.

He conveys the need to understand the argumentative tradition of India which is rooted in its long and diverse history, culture and tradition to understand contemporary Indian. He used past events, arguments and references to emphasize the contribution of India in the field of science, medicine, mathematics, literature and ideas to the world. The author tries to deviate the reader from his western way of looking at India and rather prescribes an indigenous way to look at the Indian identity with its historical tradition of relying on reason, research, heterodoxy, deliberation,dialectic, debate and pluralism. In the realm of science, Sen debunks the India of the popular Western imagination as a land of mysticism and religion. He cautions the reader against the current narrowed view of Indian society based on class divisions, communalism and regionalism, intolerant towards others ideas and practices which goes against the very idea of India that existed in the past. His writing is class apart with his way of complementing his opinion with references.

In different essays author captures the arguments between Tagore and Gandhi (its pleasing to hear some arguments between two enlightened souls), he captures and analyses the reasons for the prevailing skewed ratios of men over women, inequality of men and women and prescribes practical solutions. Sen quotes James Buchanan’s definition of democracy: ‘as “government by discussion” implies that individual values can and do change in the process of decision- making’. He underlines that the expression of values in a democracy also determines the values themselves, as illustrated by the championing of pluralism by none other than the Mughal emperor Akbar who organized debates and public dialogues between the followers of different religious faiths of his time (Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsees, Jains, Jews and even atheists).

This was the most difficult books for me to read, foremost because of the difficult choice of words for a novice reader like me and then complementing it with his high valued ideas which require perfection over language to understand (which I am no way near to!), but understanding his difficult ideas along with his difficult use of words sometimes makes reading painful and difficult to grasp. But it is to be added that the ideas that author conveys requires astronomical precision to convey the correct meaning which necessitates and justifies the parlance used by him. Its just that it needs a little patience to read, my little mind wasn’t able to grasp all his ideas in one read and will go through the book once more, it’s not boring, its just that I have little command over the language and this book requires perfection in it! He is at his finest when slicing an idea, displaying a sleight of hand in posing the same question differently! The book is a must read and for me a re-read and re-review it!

Satyamev Jayate: Episode 1 insights

Today, much awaited Aamir Khan show was aired, though not his totally, for the title belongs to us all. I feel that not only title, all what he has to say is related with us all. His efforts were visible in such a time-consuming, arduous and technically difficult show, but he has made his point.

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Today the episode was about horrifying female foeticide, which was intensively researched, and brought out some peculiar astonishing stories from around the country, parts of which continues to make headlines in the newspapers, apart from these, some unturned stones were moved, revealing those cynical intentions which are working in articulation in support of this heinous crime.

Against the general belief that female foeticide happens most in rural areas, is done by illeterates, and most poor do it. He unturned the fact, much hidden from us, that its not those tribals, or poor, or rural, rather us educated, highly literate, professionals, urban people who give heed to such a devilish and barbarous act. The underpinning fact that supports this explanation is that sex ratio is much worse in urban areas rather than rural areas.

Another overarching and acrid disclosure against popular conviction was that it all started with the governments initiative in 70’s period, when the problem of high population was scrutinized. It was argued that since people want only a boy child, why give birth to a baby girl and thus female foeticide was started as a program in government hospitals. But after some skeptical arguments by right-minded activists, it was obliterated from the government hospitals, but the menace was already done, and demand was created, people now knew that this can be done, and which continue still. Persistently embarrassing us in front of the world populace. As if this was not enough, adding onto it was the cynical intentions and deliberate stifling by the system of those journalists who tried an unnerving sting operation to promulgate those pernicious faces who are causing this havoc.

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I am no catalyst to change, but as part of Aamir’s initiative, I too am exalted and onus lies on us all to be a part of effort, and be the change which all of us want to see. What now matters is not just to think that we are part of it, lets try in our all small ways. The change may be slow and the problem momentous, but continuos efforts are required, and only if we decide to be its part this very moment.
Be a part of change, for it feels really good when Incredible India shines!!