Thursday, January 23, 2020

We must start planning to reduce global population in a more systematic manner if we are serious to address some of the greatest threats of our time including climate change, wealth and income inequality, and immigration

                           Source: Scientific American, Dec. 1, 2014.

Yes, it’s high time to start planning to shrink human footprint in the world by reducing global population. It's not just bringing the population growth rate down but total population in a more systematic manner, ideally with least possible disruption in our societies and in the Government. The issue is critically important to address many other issues including man-made climate change, wealth and income inequality, human migration and refugee crisis. These issues themselves are inter-connected.

Humans first reached the 
1 billion mark around 1800, a doubling time of about 300 years; 2 billion in 1927, a doubling time of 127 years; and 4 billion in 1974, a doubling time of 47 years. We can clearly understand that doubling time is increasingly getting shorter. World population crossed the 7 billion mark around October 31, 2011. Current World population is around 8 billion. 1 in 8 people in the world today don’t have enough to eat. World population is expected to reach around 9.7 billion by 2050 and then peak around 11 billion by 2100. It’s always a challenge for planners to satisfy the basic needs for food, shelter, clothes, energy, and other items for ever increasing number of people.

Many times various lobby groups, which include Non-Profit or Non-Governmental organizations refuse to accept ecological limitations of our planet. Religion does play its role here by promoting the idea that mere mortal humans are too insignificant to damage Mother Nature and God’s creation. We also know that aspiration of growing number of people to have a western life style is putting more pressure on the planet in almost every front, starting from more meat and dairy based diet, which need more land, water and other resources, to growing energy consumption, which is mostly met by fossil fuel.

World Watch Institute estimated that our planet has just 
1.9 hectares of land per person for satisfying almost all its basic needs and also take care of the waste it generates. That means growing food and clothes, supplying energy, and absorbing the waste we generate from that size of land. An average American uses about 9.7 hectares.  This indicates that our planet can support only about 1.5 billion people with a lifestyle of an average American.

The situation becomes little more complicated if we start calculating various basic needs that a person requires. One good example would be water. Biologically a person needs about 1 gallon (about 3.8 Lt) of water per day. 
In 2010, USA used 355 billion gallons of freshwater, i.e. over 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters) per person per day. Half was used to generate electricity, one-third for irrigation, and roughly one-tenth for household use: flushing toilets, taking bath, washing clothes and dishes, and watering lawns. If 7.5 billion people consumed water at that American level, world usage would top 10,000 cubic kilometers per year. Total world supply – freshwater lakes and rivers – is about 91,000 cubic kilometers. Here keep in mind that about 2.1 billion people in the world don’t have enough water to drink and more than twice as many lack safe sanitation, as per World Health Organization.

By now we, or at many concerned scientists and other policy experts, became aware of growing crisis of man-made climate change; growing danger to humanity due to
mass extinction of various living organisms from plants to insects, birds, and other animals; increasingly acidic and polluted oceans and seas. This is not of mere academic interest but has very close relation to our food supply and farming crisis as rapidly declining bee population indicates. Whatever we may do or plan to do, we simply cannot supply enough food, water, energy, and other basic necessities for ever growing number of people. Few probable solutions to feed more than 8 billion people demands some drastic changes in our life style and food habit might not be so acceptable for many people, mainly the affluent ones in developed countries like the U.S. One such prescription to feed growing number of people is based on relying more on plant based diet and less on meat and dairy. An average American eats about 638 percent more red meat, 145 percent more dairy, 234 percent more poultry, 268 percent more eggs, while consuming substantially less whole grain, legumes, fruits and vegetables to maintain a nutritionally sound and sustainably produced planet-wide diet.

Currently we treat farm land and other natural resources like forest and marsh land, lakes etc. as land banks for future expansion of real estate and industrial growth. Many of us either don’t know or conveniently forget that
only about nine countries in this whole world are actually self-sufficient in food. Despite of economic prosperity and technological advancement the only European country that is self-sufficient in food is France. Those nice looking cows in lush green meadows in Switzerland mostly rely on imported grains and fodder.

Many policy makers in our local communities, or the state, or even the country can think that they can outsource, arguably, the most labour intensive and at the same time least remunerative occupation of farming to some poorer countries and then buy food if they have money. They forget that the buck must stop somewhere and it’s not always the poorer countries in the developing world. Closing local family owned farms, significantly high suicide rate of farmers, mainly in countries that actually grow its own food, is a well-documented phenomenon. It’s present in rich developed countries like the
U.S., which has higher rate of farmers suicide than war veterans, and France. A developing country like India, which still has more than half of its population depend on agriculture, is fast earning the dubious title of “farmer suicide capital of the world”.

This situation is not much sustainable, particularly with growing number of people to feed. It’s also shown that rising food price is one of the major reasons for socio-political instability and a major reason for Arab spring. That’s a rather constant theme in
human history for social unrest.

The problem becomes more intense as 
income inequality (as captured by the Absolute Gini) is fast growing in almost every country since mid-1970s. It roughly correlates with globalization along with our shrinking non-renewable resources for future generations to grow or even to sustain itself. Pre-globalization income inequality between developed and developing countries is declining though. It indicates few other facts like export of poverty from part of those developing nations to a large section of developed world. Now, an American or a British poor resembles more like their colleagues in India and China while the rich people in these countries are also becoming more similar at a time when income gap between a rich and a poor person within almost every country including in the U.S. is growing.

That growing income and wealth inequality is again affecting the way our political system and big corporations work. Despite of fully knowing the facts about man-made climate change, major players in fossil fuel industries like 
Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil
 got away after misleading general public, national Governments, and many of its own shareholders. Proposed energy policies show demand rising for natural gas but slowing for oil and coal.

                   Source: TIME, Jan. 27, 2020.

We need to remember that natural gas is also emits greenhouse gases when burned. Only the extent is less that oil and coal but significantly higher than renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.  If countries meet the Paris climate agreement's reasonably bold targets, demand for all fossil fuels would decline and all the remaining fossil fuel sources must remain below ground.

Despite of its huge influence, many of the fossil fuel companies are now facing a grim reality due to dwindling long term supply of its main revenue sources (i.e. fossil fuel itself); and duet to public awareness and resulting frustration, anger, and political backlash in many countries due to 
worsening climate crisis that even concerned scientists and most aggressive model of climate change failed to perceive. That frustration is more in western democracies that still have productive media, freedom of speech, and where people used to enjoy relatively less polluted lives with relatively less natural calamities. Many Western democracies, certainly the U.S. are increasingly facing many climate change induced natural calamities. Coastal flooding becoming more common and people from those areas are expected to flock to certain areas and cities. Population pressure in those cities would grow as rural communities are increasingly less viable for many other reasons, mainly related to rural economy. Many coastal areas in our country and many others parts of the World would be lost forever and beyond reconstruction due to rising sea level and other threats arising due to man-made climate change.

In many other not-so-democratic countries such public frustration and anger are being suppressed but sometimes expressed in form of civil unrest and distrust on its government and political system. Many 
big corporations are now forced to acknowledge not only ecological and but also political limitations of its core corporate mantra of profit maximization for its shareholders.

Latest data available (2017) suggest that an average
Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in the world is 2.432. Even though TFR has continued to fall since 1970s, the doubling time for total human population in the world grew increasingly shorter as mentioned earlier. Traditionally the debate of over population was limited among few developing countries with very high population like China and India. Later many other countries with “unacceptably” high population growth like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia etc. came into focus. Many Americans routinely complain about over population, mainly in bigger cities, even though American population growth rate declined for last 80 years.

We all probably know about the famous one child policy in China. It was introduced in 1979 and continues as late as October 2015. Now we are becoming increasingly aware about the atrocities and issues associated with that policy from various western news channels as China is gaining more global attention. Many foreign nationals, including Americans, adopted Chinese children. They grew up abroad mostly in western democracies. These Chinese born adults now started asking inconvenient questions and also searching for answers as shown in the documentary, 
One Child Nation. Now China has the worst by birth sex ratio in the world with 115 boys born for each 100 girls, comfortably beating India, which got global attention for girl child killing and selective abortion.

Few other countries like 
India also tried various autocratic means including forced sterilization to slow down population growth rate. Sometimes it's targeted against specific race or religion. Female infanticide or selective girl child killing is also being used in countries like India, but not as a government policy.

Lack of understanding and/or willingness to introduce sex education among teens, availability and affordability to get safe abortion and other family planning methods are also influenced by growing religious fundamentalism and political exploitation of religion by a section of policy makers in many countries. Just by allowing women to get education; delaying marriages; allowing women to have a say in the decision of marriage, family planning, and pregnancy would alleviate poverty and control population growth not just for that particular family but eventually for the country. Melinda Gates of Gates Foundation recently quoted as saying, “family planning is crucial anywhere, in any community around the world, because if a
woman can decide if and when to have a child, she’s going to be healthier and her child is going to be healthier.” That issue is also very closely related to poverty and social mobility for the members of the family.

There seems to be a fierce 
resistance among so many leaders in various countries, who are overwhelmingly men and often don’t want to give up control of a woman’s fertility and of their own wives’ fertility, besides denying girls the right to get education, mainly sex education,  which is still a taboo in many societies around the world. Oddly enough, USA is not that unfamiliar with such resistance either.

Growing influence of religion in both public education and in public policy seem to influence, if not create, many such issues that polarize people in many countries around the world. Even in the U.S., which spends the most in education and research, the 
gap between what scientists/experts believe vs what general public believe is growing. About 59 percent of general American public view “growing world population will be a major problem” while 86 percent of American scientists the same way. The gap is wider in issues like evolution, abortion, and even GMO. Political polarization among the two main political parties in the U.S. on that single issue of abortion is also growing.

There was a famous court battle, known as 
Scopes Trial, around 1925. It was about teaching evolution as opposed to religious dogma of "intelligent design" or creationism in schools. That incident shook the country. As a result, the influence of religion in American education system and politics started a steady decline. Since that time American society and politics started becoming more fact and science minded. USA became political, military, and economic superpower. Then it changed again. It all seems to have started around 1976 with deeply religious Ronald Reagan. Both the parties, including progressive Democrat Jimmy Carter, started embracing Christian fundamentalism, albeit much less than their Republican colleagues like Reagan. That change also correlates with worsening sociopolitical polarization, growing income and wealth inequality, growing public frustration on increasingly dysfunctional American political system and capitalism.

In the meantime, growing population of older people initially in more developed countries and then in other less affluent developing countries became a more serious issue as medical science keep on improving prolonging our lives. The rate far outpaced our ability and/or desire to restrict our family size and adopt family planning measures. That’s particularly crucial among poorer and less educated population in almost every country, including the U.S.
About 11 percent of people in the World are aged 65 and over, as of 2019. This percentage is expected to jump to nearly 17 percent by 2050. By 2050, one in four persons, i.e. 25 percent, living in Europe and Northern America could be aged 65 or over. In 2018, for the first time in history, persons aged 65 or above outnumbered children under five years of age globally. The number of persons aged 80 years or over is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.

Challenges arising due to this growing number of older people- taking care of them, providing them health care, ensuring financial stability for increasingly longer period of time after retirement that too with decreasing number of working age population, and other such issues- are posing enormous policy challenge for every Government in the world

Less developed countries are trying to absolve its duties, many people say, as they tend to force adult children to take care of their old parents and grandparents. Younger generation needs to accomplish the hard emotional and financial duties with declining income (as compared to their parents) and diminishing resources like (family) property and savings. India passed 
The Maintenance And Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act in 2007. The act legally requires children and grandchildren (but not minors) to maintain the health and wellness of an aging family member, where “maintenance” is defined as the provision for food, residence and medical attendance and treatment; and “senior citizen” as any person age sixty or older.

This message of controlling population is almost unheard of in most of developed countries in the western world. It was not much of a reality just few years ago that an American presidential hopeful would talk about population control in an open forum. This year we heard that too although 
that progressive and liberal politician been criticized to suggest population control as part of tackling climate change.

Temperate western countries, mainly in Europe, traditionally had less people for various reasons including limitation of natural resources, lack of biodiversity, lower fertility of land etc. As colonization spread across Europe, they got habituated to slave
labor and almost free natural resources at the cost of other people from around the world. European colonization also affected natural or organic socio-political evolution in those colonies, many of which were having highly developed civilizations and prosperous economies with long distance sea trading culture without having any desire or need to establish colonies. That time we also did not have the knowledge that we have now. We did not know what burning fossil fuel would lead to, what type of pressure the planet faces for our growing addiction to more energy dependent affluent “western” lifestyle. Ecological limit of the planet was not known.

The core issue in most of the cases is our blind faith in “growth”- any kind of growth- be it growing household income; company profit; national GDP; number of members of an organization, religious, or political, or otherwise. It has become an addiction to growth based perception of development. Growth became the core mantra for corporations and governments alike. It tend to ignore the ecological limitations of “growth” and coerce us to think that shifting or outsourcing the consequences to distant nations and on people whom we don’t know or live with, would not affect us, as a society and as an individual. How wrong we are!

It’s high time to start asking serious questions about what type of model of development we should have, to sustain this world and our quality of life. It becomes more important for developing countries like China, India, Brazil and so many more, where we almost constantly hear about "development" and conflicts arising from it. We hear the conservationists and global warming experts who tell us to consume less, create less carbon footprints. On the other hand, we are constantly hearing many economists and policy makers that we need “growth”, we need to spend more, and consume more. From our childhood we had an impression that low or zero “growth” is very bad.

There are few emerging alternative economic models that recognize ecological limits of human development and emphasize socioeconomic equality. Two alternative economic models pop up. The first one proposes a steady-state economy: one that has stopped growing in terms of GDP, but continues to improve quality of life. It’s maintained by an ecologically sustainable rate of resource throughput and a steady state of human population.

The second one is a sustainable de-growth model that had been defined as “an equitable down-scaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions at the local and global level, in the short and long term”. The paradigm is that human progress without economic growth is possible. It has been shown repeatedly that GDP per capita does not correlate with overall happiness above a certain level of satisfying people’s basic needs. According to a recent research, earning more than a threshold level does not translate into increasing overall happiness and satisfaction of life, while may have negative impact on quality of life.

It would be naive to think that developed countries around the world are or will remain immune to the consequences for climate change, high corruption, poor governance and failure of democracy in many, if not most, countries around  the world. Desperation to leave poorer countries can never be addressed by building increasingly higher walls or tightening immigration laws or isolationist policies.

We surely can debate and reform our immigration policy but there can't be any confusion that it would be much better and sustainable for reasonably prosperous developed countries including the U.S. to enable those unfortunate people to stay in their own native countries by addressing the issues for which most of them are forced to leave or seek a better life aligned to their views, ambition, and ability or talent. It’s equally true for many people in the U.S. and other developed countries, who prefer to live in those tropical countries in the developing world. Ideally, we should have a border–less world and visa-less international travel. But to achieve that reality we, at least majority of us and our Governments, first need to believe and then establish a similar, if not the same, definition of truth and justice. That must not be based on some religious or political ideology but on science, fact, and logic.

By now we should get the clear message that we have to restrict first and then shrink human footprint if we, as a human race, like to continue human civilization in its present form in this planet for centuries to come. Sooner we understand and act the better.

Friday, September 06, 2019

গরুময় ভারতে গোবরের গন্ধ ভাল লাগাতে শিখতে হবে

প্রথমে মনে হয়েছিল এসব ঐ মাড়োয়ারি সেবা সমিতির কাজ। খোঁজ নিয়ে জানলাম ওটা পশ্চিমবঙ্গের একটা  মফস্বল শহরে একটা স্থানীয় বাঙ্গালী ক্লাবের  কাজ। গণেশ চতুর্থী পালন।  বেশ একটা বাড়তি চাঁদা তোলা আর র্ফুতি করার অজুহাত তো পাওয়া গেল।  যে যার মত অজুহাত খুঁজে নিচ্ছে। কারুর দুগ্গা থেকে শুরু করে গণেশ, মা মনষা, মাই শনিও।   আবার অন্য় কারুর ইদ্, সবেবরাৎ, মহরম  থেকে শুরু করে কৃষ্ মাস আর গুড ফ্রাইডে তক্।

আগে বাঙ্গালীদের  "ভারতীয় হওয়াটা" ঐ দেওয়ালিতে কিছু পটকা ফাটানার মধ্য়েই সীমাবদ্ধ ছিল। বাড়ীতে মা দিদিরা প্রদীপ জ্বালাত।  সেসব অবশ্য় কালীপূজো উপলক্ষ্য় করেই হতো। কেউ কেউ তা টেনে টুনে দেওয়ালি পর্য্য়ন্ত নিয়ে যেত। তা বাঙ্গালির ভয়ঙ্কর সেই নরমুন্ডমালিনী, অর্দ্ধনগ্ন, সবকিছু তুচ্ছ করা মা কালী ভারতের গোবলয় আর দক্ষিনে ঠিক পাত্তা পেল না। ভারতের দক্ষিনে আর গোবলয়ে সব মেয়ে ভগবানকেই বেশ এরটা শান্ত, মমতাময় করে, অর্থাৎ বেশ গৃহপালিত করে তৈরী করা হলো। অনেক বেশি সামন্ততান্ত্রীক গোবলয়ে সাহস, শৌর্য, বীর্যের প্রতীক হয়ে উঠল বজরঙ্গবলী, অর্থাৎ লর্ড হানুমান। তাতে ওকানকার পুরুষকুলের সম্মান আর দাসত্বের মহত্ব দুটোকেই আরও মহিমান্বিত করা গেল। মা কালী প্রাধানত বাংলাতেই Lথাকল। সেটাও কিছু গরীব গূর্ব, চোর-ডাকাত, পুলিশ, আর কিছু দাপুটে বড়লোকের বাড়ীতেই থেকে গেল। ভারতে পুলিশের সঙ্গে ডাকাতের খুব একতা তফাৎ নাকি নেই। আর ঐ বড়লোকে, জোতদার, জমিদার গুলো  আগে প্রধানত ডাকাতই ছিল

ছোটতে যখন ওখানে বড় হয়েছিলাম তখন, আর তার পরেও এসব পশ্চিমবঙ্গের কোন মফস্বল শহরে তো নয়ই, বড় শহরেও মনে হয় খুব একটা গণেশ পুজো, ধনতেরাশ,  ছট্ পরব্, কড়োয়াচোত, পোঙ্গল, লাহোড়ি পালন হত না। এখন নাকি ওসব ঘটা করে পালন খুবই সাধারন ব্যাপার। কালোধনের (Black money) সঙ্গে পাল্লা দিয়ে পটকার দাপটও বাড়ল। বাঙ্গালীরা নাকি ভারতীয় হতে লাগল।

পুরুতরাজ, জমিদারি, সতীদাহ সবই আস্তে আস্তে শুরু হবে মনে হচ্ছে। সঙ্গে রবি ঠাকুর, রামমোহন, বিদ্য়াসাগর, নেতাজি পুজোও। জাতপাত, শনি, মা মনসা, ধনতেরাশ, কড়োয়া চোত, ছট্ পরব্, Lord গ্যানেশ (আমাদের সময় উনি গণেশই ছিলেন), হাঁচি, টিকটিকি, astrology সবই তো রমরম করে চলছে মমতাময় বঙ্গে। আর তারথেকেও অনেক বেশি ঢাকঢোল পিটিয়ে গরুময় ভারতে। সঙ্গে কাঠ ছুঁয়ে  "touch wood" (আর অন্য় পশ্চিমি কুসংষ্কার), LOL, OMG, Swiss tour সবই একসঙ্গে দিব্য়ি চলছে।

ডান্ডিয়াটা গুজরাটেই চলে বেশি। মহারাষ্ট্রেও দাপট যথেষ্ট কারন ওখানের বড়লোক বা বাবু সম্প্রদায় অনেক বছর থেকেই গুজরাটি । দিল্লির মসনদেও  দাপট বেড়েছে। তা, চেহারার ধরন আর টাকার ওপর আফুরন্ত অকর্ষণ অনেকটা এক হলেও, লর্ড গ্যানেশ গুজরাটি কিনা, বা তার গুজ্জু জিন আছে কিনা, আর থাকলে সেটা এল কোথা থেকে- এগুলো ঠিক জানা যাচ্ছে না। গুজরাটে অবশ্য় ঐ জিন নিয়ে অনেকই সমস্য়া । আর তার পেছনে নাকি ডান্ডিয়া আর নবরাত্রির বেশ কিছু অবদানও আছে। তা ঐ  প্রশ্নগুলো নাকি politically correct নয়। Racism এর charge ও লাগিয়ে দেওয়া যেতে পারে। তার ওপর সামনে বিধানসভার ভোট আসছে মোল্লাময় বঙ্গে।

ঘরের কাছে সুন্দরবন বলে কিনা তা জানি না, তবে আগে "বাঘের বাচ্চা " বলতে বঙ্গ-সন্তান গর্ব বোধ করত।  বাঘ ভারতের অন্য় জায়গাতেও পাওয়া যায় আর "বাঘের বাচ্চা " বলতে গর্ব বোধ ওরাও করত।  এখনও পর্যন্ত বাঙ্গালী থাকা ঐ নরেন্দ্র নাথ দত্ত, ওরফে "ভিভেকানন্দ", গো মাংস খাওয়া সমর্থনই করেছিলেন। তা, গুজরাটী নরেন্দ্রনাথ এখন সবাইকে নিরামিশাষী করতে ব্যস্ত।  বেশ কিছু বছর হলো বাঘ যে কখন গরু হল আর পশ্চিমবঙ্গে কখন গো-বলয়ের অংশ হতে লাগল তা ঠিক বোঝা গেল না।  এখন  ওনার, অর্থাৎ লর্ড গ্যানেশের  অনারে ঐ  ডান্ডিয়া করতে হচ্ছে পশ্চিমবঙ্গেও!  সাঁওতালি তো ছেড়ে দিলাম (উপজাতি, মানে বাংলায় বললে tribal তো- ঠিক সভ্য নয় কিনা), ঐ সর্বঘটে কাঁঠালিকলা ন্য়াকা ন্য়াকা, ধরা-ছাড়া রবীন্দ্র নেত্ত, বা ঐ কলকাতার ইস্পেশাল ধুনুচি নেত্ত মার্কা, বাঙ্গালী কিছু পছন্দ নয় নাকি তেনার? হিন্দি সিনেমায় তো বাপু তাইই করে- বাঙ্গালী বোঝাতে, সঙ্গে একটা "এ্যকলা চ্য়ালো ড়ে" গান, আর কিছু বেখাপ্পা অপ্রাসঙ্গিক শব্দ-  "রোশোগোল্লা",  "বাবুমোশাই", "আমি তোমাকে ভালোবাশি"  মার্কা।

মা দুগ্গার আর তার সব ছেলেপুলের ই একটা হিল্লে হল হল মনে হচ্ছে এই বাঁদররাজের উথ্থানে। মধ্যেখান থেকে লর্ড ক্যারটিক এর কপাল আর ভোগ দুইই মারা গেল। একটা খারাপ কথা বেড়িয়ে যাচ্ছিল একটু হলে (কোন রকমে সামলে নিলাম)! বেচারার ভাগ্য চিরকালই খারাপ। তা এই পদ্ম ফোটা ভারতেও ওর ভাগ্য ঠিক ফুটল না- অতভাল চেহারা, গায়কি, নৃত্য়, আর যুদ্ধ বিদ্য়ায়, মানে নাচে-গানে-ফাইটিং এ ভরপুর পারদর্শিতা সত্বেও!

ঐ একেবারে অপদার্থ লিপিস্টিক মাখা; জিন্স, sports-shoe পছন্দ করা; feminism, বাংরেজির (বাংলা যত কমবে তত নাকি ভালো), আর কলির জ্য়ান্ত কাত্তিক হার্তিক রোশনের ভক্ত ঐ মেয়েগুলোর লর্ড  ক্যারটিকের ভক্ত হওয়ার কথা ছিল! ওগুলোর সবথেকে বেশি ওয়াট্ লাগছে, মানে দুর্গতি হচ্ছে।  আরও অনেক বেশী হবে এই বাঁদর-রাজ বাড়তে থাকলে! ছেলেগুলো নাচাচ্ছে আর ওরাও দ্বিগুণ উৎসাহে আর শ’গুণ নির্বুদ্ধিতায় নেচে চলছে। ছেলে আর ঐ কপালে তিলক কাটা ভুরিমোটা লোকগুলোক সব মালপোয়া খেয়ে যাবে। ঐ লোকগুলো যেমন নাচাবে তেমন নাচবে। ঘরে, মন্দিরে, রাস্তা ঘাটে- সব জায়গায়। কিনা, ভগবান তুষ্ট হবে আর আর্যাবর্ত্য মহান দেশ হবে। বাঁদর, রাক্ষস, আর মেয়েগুলো ঐ আর্য প্রভুদের সেবায় প্রাণ ঢেলে দেবে। ঐ চন্ডালিকার "সীতে" (ফিনফিনে একটা কমলা রং এর শাড়ী পরে,  রামের পেছনে আর ভাই লক্ষণের সামনে  দুঃখী  দুঃখী মুখে typical slow motion এ হাঁটা), রাম ভক্ত হনুমান, আর বিভীষণ মার্কা কিছু রাক্ষস যেমন মহান হয়েছিল আর কি! অতীত আর আগুনে-চলা সীতার জামানার ঐ রাম রাজত্ব নাকি ফিরে আসবে। আহা, মামার বাড়ী আর কি!

এসব কিন্তু মাত্র গত পাঁচ বা ছয় বছরে হয় নি। ভারত স্বাধীন হবার পর থেকেই প্রায় শুরু হয়েছিল রোগটা- "সেকুলারিসম" এর আড়ালে। ডিসেম্বর  ১৯৯২ তে প্রথম ডাক্তারের কাছে যাবার পরামর্শ আসে। এখন, গত কয়েক বছর হল গুটি বসন্তের দাগগুলো বেড়োতে শুরু করেছে। তাতেও অবশ্য় অধিকাংশ "হিন্দুর" আহ্লাদ আর দিবাস্বপ্ন কমার বদলে তা বেড়েই চলেছে।  দেশে থাকাগুলোর তো বটেই, বিদেশে থাকা গুলোও খুব একটা পিছিয়ে নেই।

নাচ শেষ হলে আশাকরি সবাই বুঝতে পারবে ঐ মেয়েগুলোর হাতে রঙ্গীন কাগজ চেটান দুটো শুকনো লাঠিই থাকল। হাতে শুকনো বোঁদের একটা লাড্ডু, রোশোগোল্লা নয়, থাকলেও থাকতে পারে। উপরে তাকালে দেখতে পাবে ঐ  লেজকাটা বাঁদরগুলো গাছের ডালে বসে কেমল মজা দেখল। বেশ কেমন রসিয়ে রসিয়ে খ্য়া খ্যা করে হাসছে। যাক্, নাচা তবে সার্থক!  

এত দুর লিখে ছিলাম। ভাবছিলাম এবার শেষ করব। তা পাশ থেকে একজন বলে উঠল- "কি করবি? কে আঁটকাতে পারবে।"

ওরাই, ঐ মেয়েগুলোই পারবে। ওদেরই পারতে হবে। তার সঙ্গে কিছু টিমটিম করে টিকে থাকা গুটি কয়েক ভদ্রলোক হয়তো যোগ দেবে। অবশ্য ওসব আশা না করাই ভাল। ওরা না পারলে, ঐ মেয়েগুলোর মত অগুন্তি মেয়েদের আর ভারতের অন্য় সবাই কেই ঐ অধঃপতন সহ্য করতে হবে। প্রথম প্রথম  হয়ত ভাল লাগবে। ক্রমশ গলায় ফাঁস হয়ে বসতে থাকবে।

কেও কেও হয়ত নিজের যোগ্যতায়, বা ঘুষঘাস দিয়ে, বা অন্য কোন ধান্দাবাজী করে, বা সোজাসুজি illegally কোনো সভ্য দেশে থাকার সুযোগ পাবে। অধিকাংশই সেটা পাবে না, বা পারবে না। তাদের তখন ঐ “দেশপ্রেমিক”  হতে হবে। আর আজকাল দেশ মানেই তো- হিন্দি, হিন্দু, হিন্দুস্থান।

এভাবে চললে আজ থেকে দশ বা কুড়ি বছব পর  মনে হতেই পারে- "এর থেকে মরে যাওয়া ও ভালো"! কিন্তু তার বদলে ওরা ঐ পুজো আচ্চা আর আর্য সেবা আরও বাড়িয়ে দেবে মনে হয়- ঐ “সাধারন” থেকে “আসাধারন” হওয়ার  বা “আর্য” হওয়ার,  বা "আমরা" থেকে "ওরা" হওয়ার সাধনায়! মোক্ষ আর সগ্গ সঙ্গে BOGO  (Buy One Get One) offer  এর মত  free! ইহজন্ম সার্থক হলে পরজন্মে কোনো মামু, বা কোই-মাই-কা-লাল, হাত লাগাতে পারবে না।  গণেশ তো কোন ছাড়, ব্রক্ষা- বিষ্ণু-মহেশ্বরও চোখ গোলগোল করে ঘাবড়েই থাকবে।  তখন  সোজা হার্তিক রোশনের সঙ্গে সুইজারল্যান্ডে থাকা আর মাঝেমাঝে বরফে নেংটি পরে উদ্দাম নেত্ত। তান্ডব আর কি।  হিন্দি, হিন্দু,  হিন্দুস্থান গ্য়ায়া তেল লেনে। 

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Friday, March 01, 2019

Good, Bad, and Ugly- incidents following Pulwama terror attack shed many lights on Indian society and politics.

It seems that a large section of Indian society, mainly the middle class and the elites, want peace and not war. So there must not be any war and India will get peace simply because these people want it! So let there be peace- Amen!
Composition and nature of Indian society is playing a huge role in opposing war in general- irrespective of whether it's in national interest or not. Sociopolitical evolution of India plays a crucial part in this issue.
The way a kid succeed in Indian society- starting from his schools days, to university and then professional life including those in executive branch, mainly in bureaucracy and law enforcement, can be of huge importance here too. Now many reports suggest that Indian military is also getting affected by the same issue. The issue is "good boy" culture.

These "good boys" are fully protected by their parents, aloof from the society, get a very privileged life to the best of their parents' ability. And all of it with just one goal- to get a lucrative job to have a comfortable life and ensure equally comfortable live for the parents. Their world revolves around this story line. The progression of their career with that single goal start almost immediately the child is born. It gradually  change in shape as the child grows up. In schools, they care only to score as high as possible. Parents bring coconut water, yogurt, fruit and other "healthy snacks" while the "good boy" attend classes- in school or in private tuition. Private tuition and many other "not so harmful" acts of unethical behavior and corruption is not only supported by the parents but also encouraged in many cases. The child care intensifies to the level of torture for such domesticated "good boys" during exams, as parents are equally or, may be more, stressed.

At the end of one's student life, the job they desire are selected based on two main parameters- money and socioeconomic hierarchy. Childhood dream or lounging to join a profession, ability to do the job there, dedication to excel etc. are irrelevant for both the parents and the kid. All concerned parties including the students, their parents, teachers, mentors, and the society as a whole support such "good boys". They always follow orders but love to talk about courage and other such great virtues, mainly in social media. They may watch wrestling matches on TV, war and patriotic movies, and enjoy violent video games. But tend to act totally cowardice when some basic sense of ethics, honesty, or justice arises. They are always asked by their parents to keep themselves away from any conflict or potential conflict, talk only what others want to hear, never argue to authority and so on. Protecting themselves from any harm is inbuilt in such children and almost always remain that way when they grow up. They never interfere in any local or national or social dispute/issue, except in social media, always play safe and never engage in any physical fight even when get formal martial arts training (mainly done for certificates  as an extra-curricular activity- for academic purpose to get admission in some prestigious university or job opportunity). Gradually they even stop giving frank opinions in places where it might matter. Lately I realized that many such people stop drinking alcohol in professional parties and even in social gathering in the fear of talking something that might put them in trouble. In the process they lose their ability to access risks besides many other virtues that are so essential for leadership and some even essential for basic decision making in our offices and homes. 
These people succeed there to occupy the top positions in almost every institutions and also became one of the main export items for India. Indian media, vast majority of middle class Indians, and the 'elites' are also affected. Relatively poor guys from less privileged background, who aspire to climb the socioeconomic ladder, also try its best to adopt that culture. They imitate the "elites", just like in most other countries. This system is in place since long. That's one of the reasons why that farmers' movement, which started in the village of Naxalbari in 1967, failed so miserably when the "good boys" from cities and "elite" universities joined it.

Now these opportunist, highly selfish but very vocal Indian elites and middle class "intellectuals" want peace at any cost. They think it's the noble duty of others, including our enemies, to give that peace to them on a platter. Their otherwise stable boat, as they perceive, must not be rocked by any war or socioeconomic unrest. 

At the same time, many equally vocal middle class Indians are indoctrinated into blind religious and/or political faith. It's just another consequence of India's failing education and sociopolitical system that put too much pressure for compliance of societal norms. These people tend to "support war" but themselves never want to join in it. They surely can offer puja, hold rallies, harassing anyone who dare to oppose their "patriotism". They only can join war if they are given lucrative positions in Indian military as an officer, who are known to enjoy highly feudal and British era luxury at tax payers' expanse. It's generally accepted that hard life of an non-officer army personnel are only for the poorest of the poor who can not be any "good boy" to succeed. These are the people who probably can not even survive with any other decent job in Indian society but to join lower ranking positions.

India's top political class used to be dominated by the "good boys" since long before independence simply because those people were promoted by the British rulers and given (not earned) the privileges to succeed professionally, financially, and also in politics. It would not be wrong to say that both Jawaharlal Nehru and MK Gandhi were among those privileged "good boys". Naturally, they were fine when Pakistan occupied one third of Kashmir. Nehru was also not much opposed to Chinese aggression and never even tried to develop the North Eastern states of India. That time Indian Govt made it the state policy for so many states within India that political leadership thought might be occupied by the Chinese and/or the Pakistanis. Yes, they all wanted peace! That's the start of India's insurgency problems as we see it today.

But that time, immediately after independence, many not-so-good boys, who had a rough childhood; did not have so protective, insecure, and selfish parents; also used to succeed. Such people also used to join executive branch in the Government and also in politics. But that trend gradually declined as social mobility drastically deteriorated in independent India for various reasons. It worsened significantly after globalization of 1991. That situation is again changing for Indian politics lately. Now Indian PM is not any "good boy" guy. He has seen Indian society from the very bottom of it and has a real good grasp over it, understand Indian people better than any one in Gandhi dynasty and other such "good boys" in Indian politics. But he did not seem to learn anything else- either educationally or professionally. It broadly indicate the trend or type of people rising as common man's politicians. Yes, I do not support him in many issues but I must admit the qualities he has, which can be a great asset for the country if used judiciously, guided by wise advisers and honest executives.

In the whole mess, both truth and sense of one's duty got sacrificed. Making logical and sensible decision get harder in today's India. It's equally true for general population who make their decisions based on what others say and what others do. And those "others" are either actual uneducated or poorly educated bad boys  or the so called "good boys".

India is now lost in that cacophony of good, bad, and ugly.  Previously India used to unite when they could manage to crate an external enemy- be it in politics or sports or anything else. It was the only way to make Indians united. Those days seems to be over now.

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Why should USA and other western countries minimize students from countries like India and China, where education, mainly basic education, is ruined, to allow only talented ones to join higher education and research sector in these western countries?

Most of these developing countries destroyed its own education sector, mainly basic school education for various reasons. I’ll discuss the issue mainly in Indian context. Most of the points are equally valid for other developing countries, including China.
1. The most crucial one would be criminalization of politics and politicization of education. Now, success in a country like India depends more on one's ability to exploit the current culture of sycophancy, corruption and crime- than anything else. 

In case of India, it mainly started during Indira Gandhi era around mid 1970s (she was assassinated in 1984). Since then the situation only deteriorated and the rate of destruction only increased so far, valid till today.

Many of these guys, who got western/American education and who became financially successful, open for-profit shops in the name of education there in India- flaunting American connection and attractive Western/American brand names to attract more students- mainly those who are more obsessed with going and/or living in the West or America than getting meaningful education.

It has now became an epidemic and reached its lowest as public education in India is deliberately being destroyed by politicians and almost everyone involved in that sector. Private schools, colleges and universities are mushrooming all over the country. Almost all of them are owned by corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, mafia and other criminals like AMITY university owner Ashok Chauhan, who was charged with fraud in the 1990s by authorities in Germany, where he ran a network of companies. He returned to India and was never extradited. A plastics company in the U.S. also sued Chauhan in 1995 for failing to pay $20 million in debts, which led to an ongoing court battle in India. Now AMITY University is "the most successful private university in India". Such rich private universities by corrupt criminals from countries like India are also penetrating American higher education sector. It’s a worrying development for both India and USA.

Now there is absolutely now doubt that education, both basic school education and higher education, is among the top three sectors which is most corrupt and generate most black money there in India. It’s gains more significance considering that fact that illegal black money accounts about 75 percent of Indian GDP. Some credible reports suggest education sector, mostly operate with tax free non-profit or Non Governmental organization (NGO) status, became the most lucrative and most corrupt sector after recent slum in real estate sector. 

2. Private tuition and coaching schools came as a byproduct of politicization and criminalization of that sector. Now most of the schools, colleges, universities and coaching centers are owned by corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen who have absolutely no idea and/or connection with education sector before.

Now private tuition and coaching schools have destroying Indian education system to its core. Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Rajasthan type states became the recent hot spots of mass manufacturing of idiots and mediocre students for different professional and other courses including engineering, medical, top civil service positions (e.g. IAS, IPS, IFS etc). Many of us are familiar with Kota, used to be a small town in Rajasthan, which later gained national fame for its high profile and and high pressure coaching schools to enable students to get into various prestigious institutions and lucrative careers in India, and crimes behind it? Another example- 50 Suicides In 60 Days: Dark Reality Of Andhra, Telangana Coaching Centres. Now even a kid in a village have to take private tuition, mostly probably by the same teacher, who is supposed to teach the same syllabus in a (mostly) tuition free government run public school.

About a decade ago, in many states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, parents spend more money on private coaching for their children that all other items including school fees, transport, books, stationary and uniforms. Now that phenomenon has engulfed almost all of the country. Many teachers are known to run private tuition and well-organized businesses of coaching schools, neglecting their teaching duties in schools/colleges/universities. Such coaching schools and private tuition businesses by influential teachers and administrators are involved in almost every examination in India, including entrance/screening tests. They seemingly have mysterious ability to make highly successful ‘suggestions’ (probable questions in the examinations), influence mark scoring ability and ensuring that students perform well in entrance examinations without even covering the syllabus.

Such private tuition and coaching enabled students score very high in standardized tests that have a defined syllabus and exam pattern. They ranks high in various national and international entrance/screening tests including UPSC (that recruit top bureaucrats in India), GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, SAT, etc. These guys succeed at the cost of dedicated and talented students. Most of the successful ones are from rich and powerful families, as outcome of any competition there is decided based on parental money and/or influence, their connection to the institution and its bosses. Available data shows that the quality of vast majority of these professionals are pathetic, to say the least- both as a professional and as a responsible citizen of the society.

Gradually such immigrants become a social liability for the host country, in case they are allowed to permanently live there. These people already started promoting that culture of rote memorization, suggestion based 'education', private tuition and special coaching classes in countries like USA- mainly in big cities, where there is a huge population of such immigrants.

Enabling honest and talented students with dedication and grit from such developing countries like India and China would have far more benefit for both the host and the native country in the long run.

3. Many sources indicate that there has been a significant increase in forged resumes with fake degrees, and false ‘experience’ certificates from students and professionals from India. It’s indicated that about half of resumes from India have fake degrees while about 90 percent contain fake ‘experience’, many with ‘genuine’ fake certificates purchased from corrupt people and/or companies, mainly body shopping agencies, which mostly operate in the lucrative IT sector. Nonetheless, it seriously affect decent and honest Indian students and professionals. 

It’s the byproduct of many issues in Indian society where engaging in corruption is not only socially acceptable but also can be a matter of pride in terms of ‘intelligence and ability’ to be ‘practical’ to succeed. Far too many senior professors, Vice Chancellors, Directors of academic and research institutes and universities are known to be engaged in various issues of professional misconducts like plagiarism in countries like India. These forms of 'minor' corruption and crimes are 'nothing wrong' and accepted among them. That distorted sense of ethics and logic are not something that can go away from the affected individuals when they migrate to other countries or get degrees and jobs abroad. That would invariably affect the society they would be living .

4. Massive migration of foreign student is making it harder for local students, even talented ones, to get admission or afford insanely expensive higher education in American universities. Many, if not most, American universities actually prefer foreign students as those students are more lucrative source to make more money.

These corrupt and/or brain dead idiots already flooded western universities as lucrative customers for the universities. Those graduates naturally became an attractive option for cheaper and easily exploitable manpower for local companies. They are recruited mostly to do mundane routine technician or clerical jobs (including teaching) in universities, IT, R&D and other sectors in countries like USA, UK, Germany etc. That boost profit margin for the company. It’s not much due to shortage of suitable manpower, as the myth of ‘talent shortage’ was and still is being propagated by many companies. Keep in mind that there is a huge glut of underemployed and unemployed American graduates and PhD holders all over the country- The fool’s gold of Ph.D. employment data and Millennial College Graduates: Young, Educated, Jobless

5. Most of the 'successful' students from developing countries are very mediocre student. But most are from rich and powerful families. Increase in number of students from these countries seems to be directly proportional to political and corporate corruption there. They come to western universities mainly to get the stamp of approval from a western university in form of a degree. Many of them would go back to their native countries and occupy powerful positions in either public or private sector companies, that include academia and so called research or R&D industry- due to the same parental money or influence for which they could come to the US/West in the first place. Rich and influential parents would put them in such powerful positions irrespective of merit and other qualities need for the positions. That would put more pressure on local talents to flourish. The cycle of entitlement, culture of corruption and other symptoms of a feudal society strengthens with each passing generation, as we have seen since India got freedom in 1947. Inquisitiveness, intelligence and honesty suffer to prevent local talents and leaders to grow, who could have acted as educational or social or political reformers there.

The possibility for countries like India and China to develop its own talent pool, its own leaders, in real sense, is very low and deteriorating fast.

6. Many of them come only to pass the initial hurdle of immigration and enter the host country. Most of these students have no desire or ability (mostly both) to pursue higher studies or research in any sense of it. But they generally manage a decent job in some local companies as cheaper and easily exploitable manpower to do mostly mundane routine jobs, where critical or independent thinking is not much desired. Such jobs include university faculties and ‘scientists’ in many private and public organizations, besides most IT and managerial jobs in private companies. Keep in mind, most American universities are just another for-profit industry in every practical sense and they too need cheaper manpower as well.

7. These mediocre students from rich or influential families. A large section of these students and professionals harbor very orthodox feudal and racist mentality, believing in caste, gender and other forms of racial discrimination. You may find many Indian or Indian origin people in western countries proudly advertising their association of relationship with white Caucasian people but hardly you can see similar pride advertisement with African origin black or Hispanic- if they at all have it in the first place. It’s consistent with the fact that India is considered ‘the most racist country’ among 70 odd countries surveyed.

It does affect other students in the same group/class- both academically and socially. These kids would be of zero or negative value in the society when they settle in the host country- even though they might be financially successful or productive. It would be more damaging as these students start joining in public policy positions- either directly as a law maker or in a consultant position or individual contributor. In short, they become social liability in the long run. It becomes more problematic as they climb academic or corporate hierarchy and start participating in policy decisions in such organizations, including universities.

8. These students and professionals also have a high tendency to believe and live in a ghetto culture. They feel more comfortable with similar minded people, naturally. They tend to recruit similar type of students/employee when they start climbing employment hierarchy- either as a university faculty or in a private company. That’s not great in terms of promoting merit and equality in the host society. It also erode public trust on those institutions.

9. Many of these ‘highly educated’ Indians, even scientists (by virtue of degree or job hierarchy), are highly conservative and religious fundamentalist. Nature of religion does not seem to make any difference in this regard. The situation got worse in last couple of decades.

It’s assumed that rise of Hindu fundamentalist ‘nationalist’ govt in India got it’s major electoral victory due to its quasi westernized ‘highly educated’ ‘Hindus’- many of them are living abroad- like this Rajiv Malhotra as described in this New York Times article.

Current ‘Hindu nationalist’ Government in India seems to be increasing religious rhetoric and fundamentalism in Indian education and research system and making it ‘increasingly antiscience’ .

There are far too many such Indian origin ‘highly educated’ religious fundamentalists living in USA and other western countries- only to spread religious bigotry in the name of various religions, mainly Hinduism, in its totally distorted interpretation and practice. It’s bad for the host country like USA and India.

10. Such practice creates a very negative image about all Indian students and professionals among a large section of local people. It affect genuinely honest and talented ones too due to stereotyping. Many recruiters flatly refuse to consider otherwise suitable candidates from such minority background while many others hesitate- mainly for influential positions that need decision making, original thinking, trustworthiness and creativity. It does not matter what those companies and people say in public in this era of political and legal correctness. it also becomes a propaganda tool for many white supremacists.

11. USA and other western countries need to attract students, who have the desire and ability (aka, talent) to prosper in the area(s) of their study or work. They should be able to create wealth (not mere wealth management) in form of new technology or product (innovation), develop novel knowledge in their area of study (not mere teaching or publishing, mostly, junk articles that do not have much, even, academic value). Such people generally have self respect and pride for the job they do and life they live. Such students and professionals generally have strong willingness to assimilate and positively contribute to the host society (not just financially by simply paying tax) and have broad agreement with the ideals of secular democracy.

Laws of science and rules of technology, process to groom human creativity does not seem to vary when taught in western universities or for degrees purchased at a huge price. It’s basically the openness of the society, rule of (democratic) laws and trust on public institutions that make the difference. people who do not trust those core principles of (most) western democracies should not come here using education as a excuse or tool. If such people become a majority, then these countries will be like the ones those people were so desperate to leave. American/Western universities need to understand that as well. As we now know that it’s less likely that America/west trained professionals and policy makers would make India and China type countries to become like any productive western democracy or USA either.

USA and other western countries can do a great favor to the developing world by promoting honest talented students and professionals, and not patronizing those corrupt and opportunist people, mostly, rich and powerful elites in countries like India and China, who are actually destroying those countries, making those countries unlivable for decent honest people. Those ‘elite’ people, such corrupt and feudal (increasingly authoritarian) countries are imposing a huge pressure on their own diminishing flock of free spirited, honest and talented people, and also on rest of the world. They are forcing others to clean up the mess they are creating. The cycle of appeasement and corruption need to be stopped if the world need to survive and became a better place to live- for anyone and everyone.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Why it’s so difficult for some immigrants to assimilate?

I was born in India, spent my teenage and early adulthood there. After living in few other countries, I settled in the US like many of us here. During my younger days in India, I used to hear a lot asking me to change, telling me how I misfit there. It’s not always to demean or demoralize or insult me. Many people used the same expression to save me from future failures and other graver miseries that they predicted for me. They thought I ask too many questions, refused to obey many social and religious dictates (or obligations, as others put it), declined to bow down to the socio-economic hierarchy, refuse to bribe and accept corruption in our daily lives as many do, who consider it just another issue of ‘practical sense’.

I like to mention one example. One director of a famous research institute in New Delhi once told me how grossly I misfit in both Indian society and scientific research. He suggested me to get out of India and join some famous British university, where he can manage almost any prestigious scholarship or fellowship for me. He was the selection committee chairman of many such UK bound scholarship and fellowship selection committees. He assured me of my admission there and also great success if I follow his advice. He went one step further by suggesting how I can be greatly benefited by marrying a woman from families like his, who can "put your (my) career and financial success into the right trajectory", as he described during those early days of post-liberalized India of late 1990s. It confused me even more. That big boss of Indian science, who was 'very close' to the ruling party and the greatest political dynasty India ever had, thought that I’m not fit for Indian science and society, yet the same person thought I’m the right candidate not only to succeed but also to marry someone, who he is closed to or related to. All these interactions started when I asked him, what are we supposed to write in the exam for the class, titled ‘protein structure and function’. That powerful director used to take that class, and we were supposed to appear in an external examination (conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University) on that subject. Most of the time that director used to be absent due to his frequent foreign tours. And when he was present, he used to arrive in the class about 15-20 minutes late for a 45-minute class. Then he used to tell stories of great German railway, autumn in Japan, awesome Niagara Falls and such exotic stuff. We hardly got much lesson on protein structure and function. I was more interested to know protein structure and function, and was equally worried about the exam we were about to appear. This example has many issues, which cripple Indian society and science alike, embedded in one- like- how to get ‘prestigious’ foreign scholarships/fellowships, how to get one’s career on the ‘right track’, how to become 'highly successful’ and, most importantly, how to fit in Indian society and science.

Many times, I find myself on the wrong side of people. One good example would be people, who use religion to celebrate and demand donations from rest of the society. Most of such celebrations can be too noisy and disruptive for any civilized society. I was not much fond of religion and do not believe in God. But it added an extra layer of anger when you come back from a day’s hard work or when you have a critically ill relative and there is 24x7 loud music, religious sermons, noisy firecrackers to celebrate, public roads are blocked, face local hooligans demanding donation for ‘cultural’ or religious celebration and so on. You would end up in a hotter soup if you remind them that you never asked money or caused any discomfort to anyone when you feel like celebrating. These hooligans, often supported by political parties and administration, expect everyone to oblige them. There are enough reasons for them to be convinced that terrorism does work in lawless societies. We all know that the consequences for not obeying would be really troubling, to say it politely. It’s equally useless to ask state or central administration for help. That might make the situation even worse.

Our birth in a specific country, a specific society, religion, race etc. are merely coincidental. We do not even choose our parents. It’s neither my fault, nor any great virtue that I was born to a specific parent, a specific country, society, race, religion, mother tongue etc. I have no obligation to defend it, if that’s not supported by data/fact and logic. In fact, I think it’s better to highlight negative issues so that more informed public opinion can be created to address the issues more effectively. I do not feel any special joy by criticizing any country, society, race, religion; particularly which I’m associated with. Yes, that does hurt. It always feels better to be able to highlight positive aspects of our parents, native country and issues associated with us. But supporting anyone or any issue for wrong reason or based on wrong data not only affect personal credibility but also hurt the honest efforts to address such issues.

Traditionally, mostly the privileged section of Indian society used to go out of India for higher education and job. They are from the so-called 'upper’ caste or upper-class community. These people first time realized the pain of being a minority when they live abroad. The urge to portray India, which is basically ruled by the same people, as a great country is too tempting for them to resist. They also have obvious personal reasons to do that too- to glorify themselves and their ability as socio-political rulers of the country. They do it while interacting with the host society and people there, who have no or limited information about India. On the other hand, the same people also wrongly portray that living and working abroad itself is a great achievement, recognition for personal and professional excellence. 

Then there is the other class, the so-called ‘lower’ caste or minority section in India. They hardly had any power and privilege, which the previous class take for granted. These people experience freedom, equality and, even, professional recognition for the first time when they migrated to a developed country. Unfortunately, many of them gradually develop the same urge and refuse to assimilate to the host society. Being an Indian bring these two classes together, as they find it easier to twist and deform truth to play the same game to two different audiences- one in India and among Indian community abroad, while the other for the host society and people there. It gradually develops a sense of entitlement that we see among the ‘elite’ immigrants and refugees. These immigrants and refugees play the same game, exploiting same ignorance of their audience- but for very different and often totally opposite and contradicting objectives. The same game will again be played, but with totally reversed goal if the same people are either deported or lose job and forced to leave the host country. Then they will loudly sign the patriotic song and spread all sorts of stories to show how bad American or the western host society was. For non-Indian audience, it’s their ignorance about India and/or the specific religion, culture etc.; while for Indian audience it’s lack of exposure and information about America or the other host society that make this tactics work. Very few can maintain a balance and have the courage to accept reality as it is.

Then, there are those so-called 'rice Christians’. The term was invented to indicate those non-Christian Indians, who convert to Christianity, highlight Christian connections mainly for personal benefits- like, escaping poverty and/or racial abuse by upper caste people in India, getting visa/jobs abroad, fulfilling political ambition, and so on. Now the term is not always associated with converted Christians. It’s more broadly used to indicate a specific trait. These folks almost always blame India and their initial religion, culture etc. to get sympathy and also the network of Christian organizations, churches and more successful Christians abroad. They often forget or conveniently ignore that assimilation does not mean accepting the dominance of Christian fundamentalism or ideology over other religions, or white supremacy. 

My living in a foreign country, my not believing in God, selection of my friends and job are the issues that I personally evaluated before accepting. Those are my conscious decisions. Frankly speaking, I left India as I do not feel much associated with that country and culture, in terms of prevailing socio-political condition. At the same time, India is the country that I’m most familiar with. I know that society, its elites and also the people who barely survive with no or false hope that things will be better for them with grace of God or grace of any specific political party or leader. I do not know any other country so well as I know India- not even USA. But I would give similar or same effort for any other country or society if I know it so intimately. 

Many people feel that it’s imperative to live in a country and become part of the system there to have any meaningful impact towards reforming it. That may be true for many, who have the required ability to navigate such a system, ability to compromise on daily basis yet able to oppose, raise voice against socio-political injustices. I tried that route a couple of times, and, always failed. I felt the limitation of that approach and my inability to adjust there. I realized that some people do not have the ability and/or patience to navigate the system in such a semi-feudal and lawless society. Many people feel suffocated there as they cannot talk openly and act reasonably freely with decent honesty, which they feel very essential to start any reform effort. I feel it’s more useful to make myself free from those, mostly, corrupt and morally bankrupt socio-political elites and the system they are so determined to maintain. Now, I can talk openly and act with more honesty. I can have more positive impact on India by staying abroad. It's imperative for me to let underprivileged people know, let general Indians know the reality. Then, it’s up to them to decide their own course of actions- whether to exploit the current situation to promote their own personal interest, or to act to make the situation better. Such immigrants can also help foreign governments, companies, non-profit organizations to deal with such foreign governments and operations in countries like India in a more meaningful way to bring desired outcome in terms of socio-economic development. 

I personally do not give much importance to religion and other superstitions in the name of culture and tradition. Truth and science is far more important. At the same time, I do recognize that these are great forces for many, if not most, people in most of the countries in the world. People can die or kill to uphold such ideology or ‘ways of life’. My only request to them- please do not come to a foreign country and society when you do not accept or believe the ways of lives in such more democratic and free societies. No one is preventing such people to practice whatever they believe and make their countries/race/religion better, far better than any other, particularly whom they do not like or aggressively oppose. Let them show the rest of the world that their political or religious and cultural faith are compatible with great scientific achievements, compatible with the vision of a peaceful, prosperous developed country and society that they dream of. Ultimately, their development, becoming more prosperous and peaceful, would help everyone else, including USA. 

The first criterion to solve any problem is to acknowledge it. Everything else comes next. All talk of policy and governance would not make much difference if we fail to take that first step. I'm reasonably confident that many Indians like me left India as they associate themselves more closely in more open and secular democracies like USA, without having any hesitation to accept that USA is no way the perfect society. It would be very counterproductive to support or allow such Indians to try to bring all those issues, which many like me left India for, wishing to impose on it on the host society- USA in this case. They are better off in India to help developing India into a better country, better than USA, than trying to convert USA into India.

I'm sure many well-meaning non-resident Indians (NRIs), Indian origin Americans, the citizen of other host countries (by naturalization) and even foreigners would definitely help them in such noble effort- not only because it’s ideologically right and the right thing to do, but also to allow US and such host countries to strengthen/maintain its open society and secular democracy. It’s true for other people too- like those Hindutva forces (which is different from Hinduism that I know), Islamic extremists, Christian fundamentalists and other religious fanatic or so-called patriotic people. I do not think it’s at all possible to have sharia law, madrasa or gurukul education and other religious rituals and yet build a modern, peaceful and prosperous country. I do not believe that anyone can ban cow slaughter, ban pork or beef eating, imposing public inconveniences due to religious extravaganza, having faith on religious mumbo-jumbo and yet develop a peaceful, prosperous country. If anyone thinks otherwise, then they need to prove that in their native countries than migrating and then trying to impose those practices on few remaining 'civilized' or developed part of the world, which is still livable for many people like me.

It’s for the same reason we are still decades, if not centuries, away from having visa free international travel, open border immigration policy or borderless world. For that we need to understand and accept few core values and definition about truth, justice and democracy. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Why did Bengal produce so many socio-political leaders, renaissance originate in Bengal and not anywhere else in India?

I hear a lot and also had to explain a lot why Bengal produced so many socio-political leaders, intellectuals, great writers, artists and so on. Many non-Bengalis refute it as 'Bengal/ Bengali superiority' complex, while others seem to be confused in their search for a rational explanation. But almost everyone agrees that there was a renaissance in Bengal, which was not much present in any other part of India.

Many assign the credit for Bengal renaissance to British education. That is surely a major reason. But not the only or probably the main reason. British and other European powers established many schools, colleges and universities not only in Bengal but also in many other places as well (Annexure- 1).

There are few issues that worked for Bengal, which started long before the Europeans, including the British, arrived there. In fact, the Europeans arrived India via southern or western coast. The first European, Portuguese Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut, Kerala in 1498. The first British trading ship, the Hector, commanded by William Hawkins, landed in Surat, Gujarat, in 1608, during the reign of Mughal emperor, Jahangir. But the main impact of European as a whole and British in particular was unfolded in Bengal and not in Southern or Western part of India. 

Here we need to keep in mind that Bengal was not fully under Delhi and Mughal rule at any time in history. People in that part of India never witnessed repeated invasion and war violence that was a regular affair in northern and western India. The drastic socio-political change imposed by Muslim rulers, who came from central and middle east Asia, was restricted to fewer places and was less dominant in Bengal. 

Bengal has a very unique distinction to have among the first democratically elected kings in Asia, Gopala around 755 AD. It traditionally had a very pluralistic, more open society. Had a history of institutionalized education, that include the famous Nalanda University and educational institutions in Gauḍa (currently. Malda), Nabadwip, the place where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1553 CE), the spiritual leader of Baishnab sect was born and spent a significant part of his life, and current HQ of globally famous ISKCON. 

Bengal had a vibrant trading history long before the Europeans arrived and the Europeans took advantage of it. Many people there used to be very entrepreneurial risk takers, unlike what we see today. Bengal retained one of the most important trading and business centers during British rule and early part of independent India as well. 

These were among the reasons for which the British, initially East India Company, established its capital in Bengal. But the British was little apprehensive about other European powers, mainly the French, who was a global threat to British empire. We also need to keep in mind that all this was before that famous Paris treaty (1763), which was signed after ‘seven years war’ to settle the its dispute with the French (along with Spain and Portugal) in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. The French had a long history of cooperation with local rulers in India as a whole and Bengal in particular. In case of Bengal it was Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, head quartered in Musheerabad, about hundred miles north of Kolkata (Calcutta). So the British East India Company established Calcutta (by Job Charnock around 1692) and gradually strengthened it. The suspicion against the French was not unfounded. Siraj ud-Daulah, attacked the British to capture its biggest fort, Fort William in Kolkata, at the instigation of the French. This led to the Battle of Plassey (1757). There the British decisively defeated the Nawab and his French allies, resulting in the extension of British power over the entire province of Bengal and, in every practical sense, in India too. 

During British rule, Bengal Presidency included present day West Bengal, Bangladesh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, part of Tripura and Burma. Once the Europeans arrived, they initiated concerted efforts to develop local manpower, mainly to do many of the lower grade jobs in administration, judiciary, law enforcement etc. British needed a lot of trained and skilled manpower to rule over this huge colony. One of the places where such effort took its deepest root was Kolkata. Here we need to remember that British gave similar efforts in other parts of India too but its impact was not so profound. Renaissance did not much happen in those places. 

Kolkata was the capital of India till the new capital in New Delhi was inaugurated and became functional in 1931. During this period many Bengali professionals, scholars and thinkers got the opportunity to know British culture, politics, justice system, science, education and, most importantly, modern democracy. We also need to remember that many of the famous Bengali intellectuals who ushered renaissance there got higher education and exposure in Great Britain as well. Not many of the great thinkers and scholars, for which India is still feel proud, originated from Muslim era madrasas or traditional ‘Hindu’ gurukul education. 

Besides Britain, few other European powers have its impact on Bengal. It includes the French, Portuguese and Dutch. It gave Bengalis a competitive advantage and a separate yardstick to understand British culture and education. A rather large region around Kolkata was known as ‘Little Europe’ and currently being promoted by West Bengal State Government for tourism. 

As British education and socio-cultural evolution gained ground in Bengal, many of its renaissance people were taking shape in almost every field of life- started from education, science and technology, socio-religious reform and most importantly, in freedom struggle, mostly via violent means. Most Bengali freedom fighters, like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, seemingly had far more impact on British rule than even MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, as we are now learning from recently declassified documents by the British government and from other sources in other countries like South Africa. The same sentiment was echoed by many contemporary Indian scholars and freedom fighters like BR Ambedkar. 

Overwhelming majority of the prisoners in the notorious cellular jail in Andaman, where the most violent and feared (by the British rulers) freedom fighters were kept, were Bengalis. One can check the list of names of the prisoners, still maintained there in the jail. 

Formal education in Bengal probably was not that different than many other parts of India, e.g Tamil Nadu (Madras), Maharashtra (Bombay), where students excelled to become clerks or servants for their European masters. But it’s the socio-political evolution that made Bengal the hotspot of leaders in almost every field. We mostly know about Bengal’s politicians, freedom fighters and few rare mixtures of violent freedom fighters who later became great spiritual leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, later known as Sri Aurobindo. After renouncing violence, he established the famous ashram in Pondicherry. 

All the three major national level political parties in today’s India find its roots in Bengal. Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee was the first president of Indian National Congress. Syama Prasad Mukherjee was the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which later became Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Manabendra Nath Roy was the founder of Communist Party of India, which initiated communist movement in India and also abroad. He was also the founder of Mexican Communist Party. 

Bengal had a rich history of religious diversity, rebellion and reform. Buddhism was one of the dominant religions of Bengal since the days of emperor Ashoka (304—232 BC). It continued to thrive till 12th century. It reached the pinnacle around 750 AD and 1150 AD, mainly under the guidance of Pala Kings initiated by Gopala, arguably the among the first democratically elected kings in the world. It started its decline as Hindu Sena dynasty came to power and crushed Buddhism. Surviving Buddhists retreated to the Chittagong area, bordering Myanmar. The Muslim invaders put the death nail by destroying Buddhist monasteries in Bengal, as they did in other parts of India under its rule. 

Religious reformers like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu started raising voice against Brahmin and upper caste domination and caste based hatred among Hindus. He is also credited to prevent rampant conversion of Hindus, mainly ‘lower’ caste Hindus to Islam, slowing down the fast spread of Islam in contemporary society. There were many other unorthodox Hindu preachers who denied ‘sanatan Hindu dharma’ and its rituals. 

Traditionally non-Brahmins and non-Kshatriyas dominated Bengal. Sen, Ghosh, Dutta, Bose, Pal (Paul) used to be the major players. The traditional upper caste dominance was almost non-existent in Bengal till very late when Ballal Sen of Sena dynasty imported some Brahmins from Kannauj area in present day Uttar Pradesh. Some think he merely revived, while others think he introduced caste based social hierarchy in Bengal. Here we need to keep in mind that his son, Lakshman Sen (1178-1206 CE) was the last Hindu king of Bengal. He was defeated by Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, the same person who destroyed the famous Nalanda University, to start Muslim rule in Bengal. 

Religious (Hindu) preachers like Ramakrishna and his famous disciple, Swami Vivekananda preached against caste division among Hindus. Both had a very different interpretation of Hinduism, in stark contrast to that of Adi Shankara. Swami Vivekananda went one step further and prescribed not only non-veg but also beef eating among Hindus. Vivekananda was quoted saying, “When his disciple Chakravarti asked his opinion about consuming non-vegetarian food, Swami Vivekananda ordered him to eat fish and meat as much possible to become healthy and courageous. He once proudly recalled of ancient Hindu society of beef eating Brahmins and advised the youths of India to be strong so that they could understand Gita better, with biceps". 

Bengal did and still do not have much presence of Kshatriyas, the warrior or the king class, unlike many other parts of India. Folklore and mythology assign that credit to saint Parashuram, who vowed to get rid of Kshatriyas. Such historical facts set the stage for subsequent socio-political leaders to take advantage of with their more educated and liberal mind enriched with western democracy. 

Bengal’s open culture affected religious minorities too, mainly the Muslims, who were mostly the converts from lower caste Hindus. Many Bengali Muslims and Christians were revolutionary in their teaching, writing and vision- e.g Lalon phokirKazi Nazrul IslamMichael Madhusudan Dutta. Attachment towards Bengali language, culture and much liberal interpretation of religion among Bengalis played an important role during liberation war (Mukti Yudha) in East Pakistan around early 1970s, to create independent Bangladesh. Language Movement (Bhasha Andolôn) in East Pakistan during mid 1950s helped making the ground for liberation war later. 

Raja Ram Mohan Roy almost single handedly able to convince the British rulers to legally ban burning of widows and allowing remarriage of Hindu widows. That earned him the title ‘the father of the Indian renaissance’. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (reconstructed the Bengali alphabet, reformed Bengali typography into an alphabet and promoted widow re-marriage), Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee and his wife Basanti Devi, parents of BJP founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (for literacy, mainly for local people in local language and for girls), Acharya Prafulla Chandar Roy (against caste division, promoting science education among Hindus and cultivating wealth creation by objective scientific research and entrepreneurship), writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and many more contributed immensely to that cause of breaking socio-religious superstitions, bigotry and socio-political reform to establish a more just and democratic society and wealth creation from within. These are few reasons why Bengali literature is so rich and also equally matured, even in global standard. The only noble prize in literature, in India, went to a Bengali, Rabindra Nath Tagore, who was far more than just a romantic and a critical writer who touched almost every issue of human life there in Bengal. 

Many talented people from other parts of India were also immensely influenced while staying and working in Bengal. The notable examples would be CV Raman, the first and so far, the only Indian to get Nobel Prize in science. He got the prize in 1930 while working in Calcutta University with many other equally talented scientists. Then comes the RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. His life and later socio-political activities was hugely influenced by his stay in Kolkata as a medical student, where he got to know and interacted with many Bengali intellectuals and freedom fighters like Pulin Bihari Das, Aurobindo Ghose. 

It’s unfortunate that people who sacrificed the most during freedom struggle, knew the country, its people and its culture much better, were sidelined during the last part of Indian freedom movement and in independent India. That ignorance and immaturity is still continuing and also reflected in many colonial era laws, irrelevant public policy in present day India that include caste based reservation, separate laws for different religion. It would not be unfair to say that we failed to a great extent in our goal to make India a vibrant, prosperous democracy with rule of law, equal and democratic law, for every citizen with unbiased law enforcement. 

We still say 'Bengal renaissance'. It easily could have been 'Indian renaissance which started in Bengal', just like European renaissance started in Italy and then spread almost all over Europe. A society or country develops when it duly acknowledges its past, learn its lesson from its history but do not enjoy living in the past or bask in past glories. Understanding and accepting our past is very important to build more productive future, a better future. And it must be based on facts and logic, not just some manufactured narrative to suit personal or political agenda or other form of utopia of ‘Ram Rajya’. 

"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it" and most unlikely to prosper in the future. India as a whole and Bengal in particular lost and keep on losing the people who have wisdom and courage to swim against the tide, stand up against the herd mentality that is being perpetuated in the name of culture, tradition, religion, politics or, even, peace. 

Annexure 1
These are the oldest colleges/universities in India- Serampore College (1818), Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (1847), University of Mumbai (1857), University of Madras (1857), University of Calcutta (1857), Aligarh Muslim University (1875), Allahabad University (1875). 

Some of the oldest medical colleges in India are- École de Médicine de Pondichérry (1823, currently known as Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry), Calcutta medical College, Kolkata (1835), Madras Medical College, Chennai (1835), Escola Médico-Cirúrgica de (Nova) Goa (1842, currently known as Goa Medical College), Grant Medical College, Mumbai (1845), Christian Medical College, Vellore (1900), King George's Medical University, Lucknow (1911), Patna Medical College, Patna (1925). 

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