Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our legacy, our liability, our future

Can we solve a problem without acknowledging and analyzing the problem before we attempt solving it? Let me put in other words. How a woodpecker find rotten wood that might have its food- the wood boring insects, grubs and ants? Can a woodpecker survive if we ask it not to drum or peck the dead wood? The topic I'll discuss below have a lot to do to these questions, seemingly unrelated. I'll come back to the woodpeckers later.

Yesterday lower house of Indian parliament, popularly known as Lok Sabha, passed (mostly) the government version of Lokpal bill. It is yet to be passed in the upper house, Rajya Sabha. Many think the bill is too weak to have any impact, while many others think that it will increase corruption, instead of minimizing it. On the other hand many believe it as a total betrayal by our elected representatives and parliament considering its promise (formally referred as "parliamentary resolution" or "sense of the house") made in the floor of the parliament to make and pass a strong lokpal bill that will include (i) Citizen's Charter, (ii) lower bureaucracy under Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism, and (iii) establishment of Lokayukta in the States. Today Anna Hazare ended his fast in Mumbai. Many of his followers are disappointed. They think the fight against corruption is over, at least for now. Many are worried about the long term consequences of our culture and social acceptance of corruption. 

The problem of extremist movement arises from systemic blockage of civic protests, as happened to many previous socio-political movements and as happening to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. We are yet to show any sign of maturity as a democracy and learn from our past mistakes. Our system in independent India has been doing it since its birth in 1947. Our 'elected' representatives and ruling elites inherited the legacy of the foreign rulers, since 1192- start of Muslim rule. Such elites include mainly the blue eyed boys of Muslim invaders (for ~600 years) and then the British (for ~200 years), who facilitated their rule over this country- in form of maharajah  nawab, jaminder, feudal landlord, businessman and    bureaucrat (including police, judiciary, civil administration bosses). It is also true that many of such maharajahs  nawabs etc were nothing but local dacoits or leaders of organized crimes (that include many businessmen). Such elites were remunerated not only by prestigious awards, powerful positions and blood-money, but also awarded admission to prestigious British universities like Cambridge and Oxford. That was like passport to culture and education accepted to our ruling elites. Responsible positions in civil administration were severely compromised. In subsequent years, oppression was accompanied with the awe and ego of 'culture' and 'education' of the scions of the looters aka rajas, nawabs, jaminders and bureaucrats. That tradition continued. It did not take much time for British trained wolves to get into 'Indian' sheep outfit.

Emerging elites start buying famous books and other items of art to decorate their homes and offices. Such books, movies and other items of art are hardly used, less understood, least followed. Another preferred way to get reputation as 'cultured' is to get the son/daughter (mainly daughters are sacrificed for such noble act!) married to a spouse already having heavyweight degree(s) or sending the would-be groom to buy some degrees, preferably from abroad. Such seemingly 'educated' and 'cultured' sons-in-law are excellent showpieces to advertise the glory of the family. By the way, this type of offers are not valid for brides, generally speaking.

No, such people are not much worried about any certificate of honesty, as they know that ignorance of general people allow them to accept heavyweight degrees and employment hierarchy as the gold standard for all virtues like honesty, hard work and talent. They would afford to ignore few skeptics who still dare to question why so many of our 'highly educated' politicians and other elites are so corrupt, least talented, but no less gifted with awards. Paid headline news in national media are not so uncommon these days. On the other hand, our typical 'good' students from less fortunate background seldom afford the courage and ability to ignore the easy and fast track to succeed, provocation of assured career, and most importantly, wealth and power- simply by being associated with such powerful and wealthy families.

Severe shortage of trained manpower and commercialization of education in western countries made the job easier. Gradually Oxbridge was replaced by american universities as the glory and power of British empire eroded, new world order established. Occasionally such elites promote backbone-less cronies as we see in some high positions, only to show that one can prosper only if s/he obeys them - the ruling elites. In short, the culture of endowment, distribution of national scholarships/fellowships/awards to cronies and relatives continued unhindered in independent India.

That culture of a feudal society and all pervasive corruption has another serious implication. It does not allow natural leadership quality to grow. In such a society people with actual leadership quality have to face severe consequence- ruthlessly crushed if not supported by some god-father/mother or powerful dynasty. The vacuum in leadership are filled by non-natural, promoted 'leaders'. There is no internal democracy in majority, if not all, of the political parties in India. That's why there is hardly any chance for India to get its own Barack Obama in near foreseeable future. That trend is not limited to politics or bureaucracy but present in almost every field including private sector companies.

Of course, not everyone belong to this category but majority does and it follows a pattern. You can describe it as 'profiling'- successfully used by security agencies and policy makers. It's the same reason a person can expect little more scrutiny while applying for US visa from its embassy/consulate in Delhi or Mumbai as compared to Kolkata. 

The cycle of deprivation, oppression and exploitation continued almost unhindered since 1947, as the British handed over the right to rule (not govern) to more dishonest and no less oppressive desi “brown sahibs”, who sometimes behave more British than actual British rulers. On top of that, the good-for-nothing fellows who failed as students were groomed by mainstream political parties as student "leaders". Then modern day criminals, big businessmen joined the loot.

Now several business tycoons are members of our parliament, many in Rajya Sabha (the upper house) where members are nominated by political parties without public referendum. There are an estimated 300 MPs with assets worth Rs one crore (10 million) or more in the new Lok Sabha, with 543 members having combined asset of Rs 3,075 crore. Now the  number  of crorepatis is almost double, from 154 in the 14th Lok Sabha. Four MPs in Lok Sabha have assets worth more than Rs 100 crore. If anyone still thinks that these rich and powerful people are there to serve the country and its people then read this article published in Economic Times which describes how "MPs have managed to find a place in many House panels despite having business interests in the sectors concerned". Please keep it in mind that the above information is only the declared asset value where the most powerful Indian politician, Sonia Gandhi, has only Rs 1.38 crore total asset including a house in Italy that is valued around Rs 18 lakhs (1.8 million) (USD ~36,000) and no car, as per her election affidavit.

The trend accelerated fast after Indira Gandhi institutionalized corruption. National institutions were ruined, started resembling party offices and increasingly being dominated by cronies. In the meantime, we committed another grave mistake. We kept most of our old laws, bureaucracy, police, judiciary that the British introduced in their native colony, which was significantly different than what they had in Britain. Our policy makers never seriously tried to reform the core institutions, even though talks of reforms are going around since ages.

Last few weeks I was watching debates on Lokpal Bill in Indian TV channels. Most of the politicians, mainly from the ruling party, talked as if they are the kings. We all seem to have the constitutional obligation to obey them and, most importantly, those who support Anna Hazare and Anna himself is nothing but insignificant bugs which "would have been crushed if our great forefathers, great administrators, were present" (as per one prominent Congress leader in NDTV). 

Many believe that it is now pay-back time. Fast spread of naxals, increasing tendency of general citizens to take laws into their hands, more support towards hartals, bandhs and gheraos by common Indians now (as compared to 1971) are just few symptoms of the all pervasive rot. Check this BBC article that says- "today 223 districts - India has 636 districts - in 20 states are "Maoist affected", up from 55 districts in nine states six years ago. Ninety of the affected districts, according to the government, are experiencing "consistent violence". PM Manmohan Singh calls it the country's "greatest internal security challenge". Such facts show the increasing distrust over our political system and civil governance, more so after 1991 economic liberalization. That is supported by many reports, fact and figures. One such reports tells- Indian government gave three times more subsidy to rich Indians (Rs 4.6 lakh corers) as compared to middle class and poor people (Rs 1.54 lakh corers). It is high time for us to ponder why India is among the worst of the emerging economies in terms of poverty, income inequality and social discrimination since globalization (i.e. since 1991- in case of India). Emerging economies like Indonesia, Argentina effectively reduced social and income inequalities significantly in recent times while India is among the worst affected ones. 

Anna's movement is (probably, was) a rare opportunity to bring a systemic change in our system of governance and force our "elected" representatives and public servants to govern- not rule. Only those get democracy who deserve it and ready to fight for it. By now we know that chanting the mantra of peace does not guarantee peace. The same way, chanting the mantra of "parliamentary democracy" and shouting from the roof that “parliament is supreme” does not transform a corrupt, feudal society into a productive, prosperous democracy. One must be able and ready to pay the price as and when needed. At the end of the day, we get what we actually deserve. It does not matter if we like it or not!

Remember the woodpecker whom we asked not to drum or peck when we started this article? Wood boring insects, grubs, ants are not the only food woodpecker can eat. In fact, adult woodpecker change its diet  according to what food sources are most abundant. In the fall, nuts, seeds and fruit are popular because of plentiful natural harvests. In the spring and summer, these birds feast primarily on insects that provide high levels of protein for breeding birds and growing hatchlings. If we ban our woodpecker to drum or peck dead woods it will not only create rippling affects in the relevant ecosystem but also will have huge negative impact on future generations of woodpeckers, without not-so-immediate and acute impact on the adults.

**added later: The bill was not passed in Rajya Sabha. The house was adjourned without voting amid chaos after a debate stretched to midnight.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

How can we, in personal capacity, help reforming basic education in India?

Some time ago I suggested to giving importance to basic education, at primary and high school level to have better quality of scientists and other professionals. I also think, there is absolutely no point to waste public money in setting up (mostly) useless new, “elite” institutes at this time. It will surely provide employment for some but will not bring much positive change in the quality or productivity of Indian higher education and research. Quantity does not guarantee quality unless there is the desire and transparency in the motivation

Initially I used to be optimistic about Non Governmental Organization, NGO (non-profit organization- as popularly known in the USA) operated or promoted schools. Later I realized that majority of such NGOs are equally corrupt and counter productive for our national interest, operated within and/or outside the country. India has the largest number of NGOs in the world (3.3 million registered ones, as in 2009, with many more unregistered) with more than 20 million employees, mostly unpaid or under-paid volunteers- nicely exploited for their temporary infatuation (for majority), some fashion and few passion (besides the usual compulsion to have a job and/or experience, applicable to any other sector). It is alleged that more than 90% of Indian NGOs are corrupt. Many big business houses, politician or political party affiliated organizations, individual entrepreneurs and even organized crime syndicates start NGOs for various reasons- starting from acting as "pressure groups" (lobby) to promote a product or technology or public policy that benefit it, to money laundering and human trafficking. Indian government is the biggest donor (Rs 18,000 crore in the XI plan), followed by foreign contributors (worth around Rs 10,000 crore in 2007-08). Around Rs 2,000 crore was donated to established religious bodies such as the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Lately individual donors are emerging as the biggest and most lucrative source of funds (1).  

In short, motivation for majority of Indian NGOs boils down to profiteering and tax incentives, not only from that specific venture but also for other organizations owned by the same company or individual than dedication towards any social or national cause. Due to that overwhelming majority, few dedicated NGOs also lose credibility and that affect its financial prospect. Almost none of those NGO operated/promoted schools have any idea about education, leave alone its desire or ability. It is just another business as usual. Many political and business heavyweights in India now have schools, colleges and even universities that are pathetic in quality and motivation, nonetheless doing roaring business. It is because majority parents have no idea about education either and few, who have, do not have any desire, rather able to gather the courage, to groom their children as “educated”.

The few honest efforts to run schools suffer not only from resource crunch but also are confused if they should continue that effort. The students from such schools do not do very well in competitive exams and job market, as compared to rot memorization and coaching based kids and/or kids in cities from affluent families. Gradually such schools lose its sheen among parents, particularly among those parents who can pay, and become establishments for less-privileged kids who have no better option). Mostly run by few benevolent, reasonably honest donors and government handouts. Dependence on government fund ruin its independence, attract political interference that ultimately destroy its purpose. Most of the time the institution dies with the death of the patron, who established the school. Then local mafia or political leaders become its president  or sectary and party cadres become the teachers and administrators. 

One patron of such a school once jokingly told me  that, "I need to open my own industry to recruit the students from my school". His next statement was more serious, "not many organizations, public or private, prefer to recruit our students. Even the most brilliant and dedicated ones are forced to go away (from our island) and do petty clerical job. That too if s/he is fortunate. Because we do not teach them how to score 100% marks, can not teach them to become 'street smart', speak fluent English to get the BPO jobs". Whatever the person might say, one can easily understand the impact of his school among local people, among the community. The community is economically poor but very clean (both personal hygiene and community-wise), disciplined, honest and, most surprisingly, none of them (I talked to) ever realized even the need to have a police station! They still have excellent sense of collective responsibility towards the community. Wealth distribution is more or less equal, no caste or religious division (so far I can witness), no crime whatsoever. They follow laws and ethics without any fear or force from any police. There was no police station in the whole island. Some might be illiterate, yet, collectively they are more educated and developed in every sense. Many will be surprised to know where I found that excellent community and the school! It was in one of the remote islands in Andaman, Rangat island, about 200 km away from the hustle and bustle of Port Blair. The community was established around mid 1950s, (mostly) by refugee Bengali community settled in Andaman after partition of India.

No, those local students never top UPSC exam or secured the top positions in any 'prestigious' joint entrance exam, probably never joined IISc or IIT or IIM type 'elite' institute or get any foreign scholarship/fellowship. They are not expected to get any either in foreseeable future. US and Europe are as alien to them as moon to many of us. There I got one of the best models of education and students I ever experienced anywhere in India. Probably we will lose that soon, as heavy flow of 'civilized' and 'educated' tourists, businessmen and bureaucrats started pouring in from outside- polluting that remote, (so far) peaceful and civilized part of India (2). Many of these 'outsiders' never learned the basic to respect other human beings particularly if they have darker skin, not to treat them as animals in a sanctuary. Many 'highly cultured and educated' tourists and 'outsiders' settled there go for thrill ride looking for the tribal people, just like African safari to see wild animals in Masai Mara. Local people are worried, but feel helpless. There I met one ex-army officer, an excellent gentleman, who settled there to enjoy both natural and human ("Insaaniyat"- as he described me) beauty. He was a very worried man too, but determined to continue to fight the losing battle. 

I realized that education and quality of school reflect mentality of local people and the  community. Just yesterday I met an young Indian couple in front of an Indian grocery store in a US city. They parked their car in a parking lot reserved for handicapped people. There was enough empty parking space but that handicapped one was the nearest to the shop they went. The car had a big "Ohio State University Alumni" sticker to advertise the owner's "education", but did not have the permit to use handicapped parking, which is legally binding all-time-display, to use such facility. When I suggested the couple not to misuse the facility, they started telling me how that is none of my business and suggested me to do whatever I feel like (in the typical irritating tone, prevalent in some parts of northern India)! Their "education" taught them that maintaining law and order is the responsibility of only police and government - common people "have no business" there. I was looking for an apology and simple assurance that they would not be doing it again. Instead their arrogance and defense to support their illegal activity prompted me reporting it to the police. The car had a booster seat at the back. I assume they have kid(s). What type of education the child like to get? Such people practically destroyed India and will contribute doing the same wherever they go- Andaman or USA, knowingly or unknowingly. 

If we ourselves are not honest, do not value ethics and morality, no law can force us to change that. No formal education or school can teach that. So long parents want to groom only “toppers” and desire to have some heavy-weight degrees for their kids that (they think) will allow them to earn more money and power, we will only have that type of “education” (rather lack of it).  We can reform education in India (or probably anywhere in the world) if you and me, as parents, give lessons of morality and ethics, teach our kids to respect and uphold honesty and justice by being their role model. Then only we will start producing world class scientists (and any other professionals) in that country. It is an individual effort first. If we succeed at home, then it makes sense to talk about systemic change in the society and government. 

Probably my long post will make no sense to many "educated" people and I apologize to them.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Early evolution of religion ushered the dawn of scientific research

Gupi (name changed) was born in a typical conservative Hindu family in India. He visited us for few weeks. It seemed that Gupi presented some tough challenges for his traditional Hindu parents. I think the same challenges are there for many parents and their beloved children who are now preparing to face the world with increasingly higher connectivity, both in terms of personal interactions and digital (in cyber space), in India and abroad. The chance to encounter people with different or even totally opposite tradition and religious beliefs is becoming higher in this era of higher mobility, rapidly expanding communication technology and shrinking personal space. Problems for Gupi and his parents mainly started with religion. The issues became more acute as both Gupi and his parents wanted him to be either a scientist or an engineer.

Many eminent personalities believe that the chance of success of our future generation will largely depend on their understanding of different cultures, which mainly comes from upbringing in multicultural societies as in this country, America. But to get the benefits from the diversity of a multicultural society people need to understand some very basics of human evolution; not only to succeed but sometimes even to survive. It becomes more important in foreign countries where one’s religion and/or traditions are among the minorities. Gupi is one of such kids, growing up abroad where his religion is among the minorities.

Religion has a huge impact on our tradition and culture, the way we like to live. It is also a very sensitive issue. I urge my readers not to take this article personally, but objectively. The purpose of this article is not to hurt anyone’s faith, not to conclude on the issue but to provoke higher level of debate and consolidation of logical thinking. It is believed that both religious and political allegiances are mostly hereditary than rational. These two are also the most important sources for conflict (and both social and political corruption) since ages and remain so till today. In this article I’ll try to deal with the religious issues and leave the political part to our Anna Hazare and his team. In fact, I was encouraged to write this piece after my brief encounter with that 11 year old boy, Gupi’s dilemma and Anna Hazare’s fast to fight corruption.

Let’s start with the very early period of human civilization. During that time humans felt insecure and helpless in front of natural calamities and search for food. They gradually tried to adjust, understand and overcome the problems when possible. Their main strategy was to organize people and act as a group. It increased their chance of success. That gave rise to community living and group activities like hunting, cultivation etc. During the process people gradually understood the problems more critically and also became aware of their limitations. That awareness provoked some to conceive the existence of supernatural powers, which they thought were behind all those forces that they cannot control. They also started believing that such supernatural forces strike when they are not happy, just like they do. They tried to keep the spirits happy, developed a set of rituals, later known as “worship”. Each group of people tried to conceive the supernatural powers according to their own experiences. If they liked any particular food or drink, they used to offer those to their Gods. Gods also started looking like them, physically. The same God is not exactly the same in southern India as compared to that of northern India. Our current, but totally misleading, perception about Jesus Christ with blue eyes and blond hair is just another fascinating story in that regard.

Even the definition of God varies from region to region. Ravana may be a demon in most of India but many people in Sri Lanka and southern India consider him as God. Many believe that Ravana was a better king or administrator, if one compares prosperity of his kingdom with that of Ram. Ajodhya was not “golden” but Lanka was! Of course the package (for Ravana) came with the characteristics that were so common among king-class, elite people (even today), which ultimately caused his defeat and death, just like many other great kings in history.

Now coming back from Satya yuga to our Kali yuga, which started on 18th February 3102 BC as per Brahma Vaivarta Purana and Wikipedia. As most of the natural calamities used to be the same i.e. rain, flood, storm-wind, draught-sun, wild beasts etc, many of such supernatural powers had high similarities (though not identical) world over. Gradually all such concepts and activities gave rise to religion. To cut the long story short, religion was developed to make societies more organized and to involve majority population to participate in different activities or rituals for betterment of the society. Religion made implementing the rules much easier. Both remuneration and punishment was introduced. It gave rise to the concept of virtue and vice. Breaking the rules was equated to sin or vice while obeying those became virtues. Here we should keep in mind that all such rules were made by human, most probably the pack leaders of the groups. During early phase of human evolution and initial days of religion, almost everyone was busy to ensure their survival and growth. They all were interested to search reasons (to solve problems), in other words, the truth (mainly behind natural calamities, food supply and reproduction). Later life became a bit easier due to many innovations and inventions. Then the main evolution of religion started, as we see it today.

Ancient religions are more inclined to have idol worshipping. They have many Gods to take care of natural causes like wind, rain, flood, life threatening animals, birth, death etc. Examples of such religion are Hinduism, religions in ancient Egypt, Greece etc. Many tribes in India and abroad practice this type of religion with many Gods and idol worshipping. More recent religions like Islam, Christianity are more like ideology. Almost all of such recent religions conceive a single God. The person who introduced that ideology became the prophet, mostly the “last” prophet. Such differences indicate the motive behind introduction of such religions. It's like establishing an ideology than to motivate survival of a group of people. The same analogy can be drawn to other non-religious socio-political evolutions, e.g Marxism. It’s the same psychology with which a king rules his subjects and advertises his supremacy. Evolution of recent religions was possible as life became easier. Creation and spread of such recent religions also affected more ancient religions. Leaders of those ancient religions tried to invent new rituals to strengthen their grips over power, and wealth associated with power. “Satidaha” (burning of brides), caste division, no beef eating, many marriages by men but not by women etc by Hindus are some of this type of new rituals. As people from different religions came closer, competition to prove ones’ supremacy became more intense.

Historians and anthropologists widely accept that beef was widely eaten in ancient India. Cow got its holy status around 500 AD, coinciding with an agricultural boom on the subcontinent. The people, whom we consider as the creator of Hinduism, not only used to eat beef but also prescribed beef for many health reasons and illnesses. An ancient Hindu text, Manusmriti (200BC to 200AD), lists cow as one of several animals whose meat can be eaten. One of the two great Indian epics - the Mahabharata - speaks of beef being a delicacy served to esteemed guests. For a quick reference one can read an article published in BBC on 9th August 2001. It was published after few fundamentalists, claiming to be Hindu, started law and order problems and threatening author, Prof D N Jha, for his book “Holy Cow: Beef in Indian Dietary Traditions”.

Even the languages, which were only the means of expression, became associated with specific religions. Arabic became Islamic, Latin became Christian, and Sanskrit became a Hindu language. Many Hindus started believing that anything written in Sanskrit must be true and (mostly) holy. Here we should keep in mind that Sanskrit was not the language of common people but of socio-political elites of ancient India.

To maintain the social order and supremacy, group-leaders did not encourage asking question. They started implementing their own version of “truth” in the name of religion. It became the norm. Gradually every religion started demanding un-questionable faith. “Search for truth” soon became the fight to establish one’s own version of truth. Now we see the fight among human beings to prove that their version of “truth” is more “true” than that of others! This deformed version of “religion” allegedly is the single most important reason for human sufferings, conflicts and death in the past and remains so even today. Religion took a massive blow to serve its original intended purpose as we invented constitution, laws and lately democracy to maintain social discipline. This presented a great dilemma for many, particularly for those who live in secular democracies like India and the USA.

Many cannot stop the temptation to cite famous people, mainly famous scientists like Einstein to “prove” religion. Let me quote a letter written by no other but older, more matured Albert Einstein on January 3rd 1954, a year before his death. It says (as published in many newspapers, including “The Telegraph” of UK on 13th May 2008)- “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this”. Einstein, who died the following year aged 76, did not spare Judaism from his criticism, believing Jewish people were in no way “chosen” by God. He wrote: “For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people.”

Our own Achariya Prafulla Chandra Roy, the noted chemist and among the first few Indian entrepreneurs to set up knowledge based Industry, Bengal Chemical, in India on 12th April, 1901, once tried to identify “since when and why India cannot undertake objective scientific research” (my own translation from Bengali texts). After a long investigation he wrote a book, “History of Hindu Chemistry”. There he identified distorted interpretation and practice of religion (more specifically the Hindu religion) and heinous caste system as the root cause. In an article titled, “knowledge of technical arts and decline of scientific spirit”, he was more elaborate. He specifically identified two people – first one is Saint Shankaracharaya and then saint Manu (who introduced stricter caste based social division and marriage among Hindus). For a quick reference one can check the short article published in reputed Bengali magazine, “Desh” (2nd February 2011 issue). The sad state of affairs of Hindus (and Bengalis) becomes clear when we find madness to celebrate 150 years of Rabindranath Tagore but not even a fraction to remember this great Indian scientist and entrepreneur (1861-1944).

There are many people who consider themselves Hindu yet totally deny existence of God. One such group of Hindu sites the ancient Sanskrit scripture, Sankhya- tattva-kaumudi. It argues that a perfect God can have no need to create a world, and if God's motive is kindness, Samkhya questions whether it is reasonable to call into existence beings who while non-existent had no suffering. Samkhya postulates that a benevolent deity ought to create only happy creatures, not an imperfect world like the real world!

Now let’s come out of such controversies and share the good news. A recent survey by PEW Forum on Religion and Public Life, a part of the famous American think-tank Pew Research Center, concluded that atheists and agnostics are among the highest-scoring groups in a survey of religious knowledge, outperforming “believers”. If we re-frame that statement, we can safely say that those people who know more about religion believe less in it. Another PEW survey concluded that, “America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations. Nearly six-in-ten US adults say that religion is “very important” in their lives”. The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) of USA concluded in 2002 that, “the influence of religion is decreasing in all the developed countries surveyed so far. In USA, about 51.6% of people think that it is decreasing and about 37.5% believe that it is increasing”. A recent article in BBC pointed out that, “Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says”. These nine countries include mostly developed ones- Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. It's reported in 1998 that about 93% of "great" scientists of USA (members of National Academy of Sciences) expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God.

I personally think there is no conflict between science and religion, as many believe or might expect. It will not be right to say that Achariya PC Roy was less Hindu (to do excellent “objective scientific research”). But that will only be true if we keep in mind the real meaning of religion and can logically follow its gradual evolution. The people whom we think are the founding fathers, invented “religion” to seek truth, as I indicated before. I could not include “founding mothers” simply because almost all mainstream religions are male dominated and follow policies mostly biased against women. It is almost unimaginable to see a woman as the Pope (the head of Catholic Church) or a Shankaracharya in Kanchipuram or the Imam of any great mosque. Nevertheless, all those father figures and many great women scholars used to seek truth with the tools and techniques available to them. They very effectively used the best tools they had, i.e. their brain. They developed the ability to ask questions and seek answers, not for monetary gain or fame. Are these not the same very basic requirements to become a true scientist even today? If you do not have those, no degree or job designation can make anyone a scientist. Science is not just learning few techniques, following protocols, rote memorization of some information/data or even publications and getting awards. To me science is nothing but searching the truth and solving problems.

During the course of evolution we lost the focus and forgot the real meaning of religion. We started following some (mostly) meaningless rituals in the name of either religion or tradition. There comes the conflict. Meditation is not just sitting idle in a specific posture for a period of time to watch soap operas or movies or sports on TV later. It was to prepare our mind to be able to concentrate on more challenging problems. A true religious person will not undertake any sort of corruption or dishonesty using some mundane rituals as shield. The same is true for a scientist. Eating beef does not make anyone less Hindu. Not eating beef also does not make the highly corrupt, dishonest person a Hindu or a religious entity either. To me, spirituality indicates purification of one’s own mind by achieving the ability to think clearly and logically towards making the world a better place. Unless we can do that, there is no way that following some rituals or traditions will make us either spiritual or religious. It is immaterial to me if you gather strength by thinking some real (e.g. our own parents, spouses, children, friends etc) or imaginary (God, Goddess etc) figures or from personal conviction of logic and facts (as atheists do) if you are an honest person with the ability to think clearly and the courage to talk straight. If we follow Vivekananda we should understand that one does not need to pray to God or offer pujas all the time to become religious, if we are honest and have the ability to fight for it.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Clinical trials claimed almost 1,600 lives (officially) in India in just 3 yrs

The disturbing article published in Indian Express on 25th September 2011. It says, “nearly 1,600 people died during clinical trials of drugs conducted by various multinational pharmaceutical companies in the 2008-10 period but the compensation was paid only in 22 cases, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS)”. The cost of 22 lives of those who volunteered in such clinical trials is just Rs 53.33 lakh ($ 112,000). Most of the volunteers hardly have any idea about the risks. They also do not get many of the safeguards, enforced in any developed country, to protect their health, mainly after trials. According to the RTI reply, the number of registered clinical trials in the country from 2007 to 2010 stood at 1,502.

While outsourcing drug trials save significant money for the pharmaceutical companies, the cost of human lives and suffering for both the trial participants in developing countries and drug users in developed countries is likely to be horrendous. Many have questioned how appropriate and ethical it is to test drugs intended for the American and European markets in developing countries. Duke University`s recent report, Ethical and Scientific Implications of the Globalization of Clinical Research, labeled clinical trials in developing countries as scientifically questionable and morally inappropriate. The study noted that genetic and other population differences could render results that did not apply to the target population. The report also raised concerns over the role money might play in recruiting poor volunteers. As recently as 1990, only 271 trials of drugs intended for American use were being conducted in foreign countries. By 2008, the number had risen to 6,485. According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) database 58,788 such foreign trials have been conducted in 173 countries outside the United States since 2000. In 2008 alone, 80 percent of the applications submitted to the FDA for new drugs contained data from foreign clinical trials.

India is increasingly being used not only by big pharma and other biotech companies from abroad, but also by many highly dubious Indian companies in areas like clinical trials, testing (and production) of transgenic crop varieties, “research” on harmful chemicals etc. Another such industry is asbestos, widely used in India. Most of the countries in the world had banned asbestos. India is yet to ban its use, production and import despite many reports to show its damaging impact on environmental and public health. One such report says India is on the cusp of a devastating asbestos cancer epidemic. There are many such industries operating successfully and with impunity in India.

Leave alone the smaller players, who operate under the radar, even the big Indian companies are alleged to having increasing involvement in such practices. In March 2004, the Supreme Court of India hauled up two top biotech companies in India, the Hyderabad-based Shanta Biotech and Bangalore-based Biocon India for "openly conducting illegal clinical trials of new drugs on unsuspecting patients". One can watch this interesting TV documentary to know more about it, how it works.

Our aspiring future scientists and young talents suffer from such practices in the name of research. Academic research also gets affected by the power of such businesses. It has huge long term negative consequences, even in terms of manpower development and quality of research. We need to keep in mind that quality of Indian research is steadily declining since 1996, when systemic data collection started, despite of huge increase in funding and number of new institutes established by both Government and private entities.

It seems that anything is justified in post-1991 India in the name of investment and / or research. It gives our political masters and industry captains the opportunity to advertise their successes, to both Indian and global audience, with a huge cost to the country and its future scientific potential.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011


To tell you the truth, I was not impressed at all when I first read Arnayak long time ago, during my school days. We had a small piece from that classic novel in our Bengali textbook. That time it was so boring, monotonous description of nature of our area, Chotonagpur plateau, in India. That description was so common, ordinary to me. I used to see many of the natural wonders described in the book on a daily basis and reading about the same in a book, and that too in a text book, did not excite me. I started reading the novel due to my father's forceful request but left it halfway. It was lying, neglected, in a cupboard with many other old books. I forgot about it.

After a long time my wife bought the book. I started reading it. Now I realized that probably I did the right thing by not reading that classic literature during my teen, when I was too immature to understand nature, human relationship and relationship of nature with human beings. It provoked so many emotions, so many pictures of my lost childhood and more importantly my lost innocence amidst rough, tough nature of chotonagpur plateau. During my childhood I was almost like of some the kids described in that novel.

The novel was written during 1937-1939 by Bibhutibhusan Bandhyodadhya. It was mainly based on his personal experience during 1924-1930, as an estate manager for a landlord Khilat Chandra Ghosh in wild Azamabad - Fulkia – Lobtulia areas of Bihar state. To understand the novel we probably will need to know little more about the author.

Bibhutibhusan was born in 1894 in a village near Kalyani, about 100km away from Kolkata, in British India at his maternal uncle's house, following the tradition that child birth should happen in mother's paternal home or maternal uncle’s home- to save husband and in-laws from the hassles of child birth, to ensure proper care for the new mom and the child and observing so many rituals and restrictions, mainly for new mother, of course. His father, Mahananda Bandyopadhyay, was a sanskrit scholar and a kathak, one who used to tell stories for a living. His home was near Gopalnagar police station in Bongaon, North Twenty Four Parganas. Bhibhutibhusan studied in Bongaon High School, one of the oldest institutions in Brithish India. Incidentally, he also taught at this school at the beginning of his working life. His early days were spent in abject poverty, so typical of an honest scholar and priest, which is still a reality in India. Nevertheless, he fought his way to complete his undergraduate degree in history with distinction, at the Surendranath College, Kolkata. Though he was admitted to the MA and law classes, he could not continue his studies. 

He was married to Gouri Devi. She died in childbirth after only a year of their marriage. Bibhutibhushan again married Rama Chattopadhyay when he was 46. Their only son, Taradas, was born in 1947. Bibhutibhusan died on 1 November 1950, of a heart attack while staying at Ghatshila, in Jharkhand state of Chotonagpur plateau.

Despite of having a childhood in rural India and traveled extensively in that part of India, I did not have much idea about the lives of the common people described in the novel. I had the curiosity but satisfied with watching it from a distance. I neither could gather the courage to proceed further. I started wondering when Satyacharan (the person who narrates the story in the novel) questions himself, “what people want- success or happiness? Why should we succeed if that takes away happiness from us? I know so many people who had succeeded but lost all their happiness. Our consciousness looses its sheen with too much indulgence. We lose the ability to wonder, to become happy. Life becomes so boring, colorless and meaningless. Our minds become too polished to express or extract happiness”. I am not sure if my translation conveys the real meaning of the statement made by Bibhutibusan through Satyacharan. No, I did not have the ability to understand the statement the time I first read Aranyak. Now, I think, I can.

Characters like Jugal Prasad, Raju Pande (Panree), Dhautal Sahu, Nandalal Ojha, Rashbihari Singh, Chutu Singh, Motuk Nath Pandit, Asrafi Tindel, Dhaturia are so real, at least to me, that I could not but recollect so many people that I can assign those characters to. Probably we all know such people around us. 

The descriptions of women in that wild, less forgiving nature indicated Bibhutibhusan’s sensitivity and understanding of human relationship. I really pity those men, those societies who try to strangle, suffocate women and think they can enjoy the charm, the company and even sexuality of women. How stupid they are! They do not know what they are missing. The ease with which tribal princess Bhanumati; Kunta, the daughter of a "baiji" (notch girl) and widow of a Rajput; Manchi- the simple, lively, inquisitive young adult and wife of an old man, are described shows maturity of Bibhutibhusan in man-woman relationship, especially in our highly conservative society, that too in British India.

Bibhutibhusan's attitude towards caste and religion is so evident in many places of the novel. He has no problem to eat and stay with people not only from different caste but also from different religions. The character of Satyacharan was and still is a model of an ideal administrator. It seems that to become a good administrator we need to screen people with both heart and head, not by some rot memorization and coaching based screening test that we use now to make our civil servants. Probably that's why, despite of having the most competitive screening test, Indian civil service is among the most corrupt and ineffective in Asia (1, 2) and "the most stifling" in the world (3). It seems that a head without a heart can only bring darkness to the world.

Many of us, if not majority, still insult people based on social, professional and economic hierarchy. Many of us feel proud thinking they are the descendants of true Aryans and loudly insult people who does not qualify as Aryans - like the tribal king Dobru Panna Birwardi, Jogru Panna or beautiful Bhanumati. We kill so many Dhaturias by not allowing them to learn and express what they love and excel in. We are so blinded by our own distorted interpretation of “education” and “success” that a retired deputy magistrate and his family members never think before they insult Satyacharan, riding a horse in a forest with not so sophisticated dress. Such people hardly care to express their ignorance and stupidity while insulting local, tribal people and their culture. Does our sense of "green" (a catchy phrase for marketing of almost any product these days) have developed in last one century to think before we pollute forests, sea beaches, historical places and many other places of beauty with garbage from their civilized picnic or noisy partying, as we see in almost each and every place in India these days?

Probably such attitude among older (and a small section of current) generation of Bengalis gave rise to mass annoyance, if not anger, against Bengalis in all those places where Bengalis flocked in mass for routine outings  or travel or settled outside Kolkata (which became synonymous to Bengal)- be it within Bengal itself (any person who is not from Kolkata is surely "uncivilized"!) or in North Eastern states, Bihar, UP, MP, Orissa or any other place in India. Many famous Bengali personalities, who used to regularly go to the "west" (west to Bengal- i.e. mainly Bihar, MP, UP and Orissa) for health reason, behaved in the same pathetic way. Majority of them not only exploited and insulted local people and their culture but also practically contributed nothing positive there. Probably it is now payback time for Bengalis in places like North Eastern states, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh etc. Later that urban "civilization" spread all across India. What many Bengalis did a century ago, many other Indians learned and continue to do it today. It gave rise to mass frustration and sometimes anger. That is partly responsible for fast spread of extremist movements like Naxals. Some of such naive Indians taste the same medicine when they travel or live abroad. Then they start understanding and then shouting about racial discrimination. They never understood, leave alone analyze, their own behaviors in their own country, against their own people. It is not at all surprising, to me at least, that India is still a highly feudal, hierarchical and racist society.

I am really surprised with the foresightedness of Bibhutibhusan when he questions our model of “development”, when we destroy our century old natural and human wealth for “success” of few people and logic for establishment and spread of slum culture. He did that at the first half of 20th century, when India was much better (relatively speaking) in terms of natural and human beauty. He seemed to be knowing the consequences of spread of third-world style of "development" of towns and metros like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi that invariably increase poverty. Have you ever seen filthy open drains, stinking people or crying, malnourished babies running all over in a (economically) poor, remote village anywhere in India, untouched by industrial exploitation? Probably no. Just wait till a factory comes up and see the immediate change!

Have you observed Mumbai, the most prosperous and the financial capital of "shining" India, from the sky? It looks more like a slum city with tarpaulin and blue plastic roof, slums all over with few scattered high rises. Can you imagine a $2 billion house, the costliest in the world, in the midst of sprawling slum anywhere, in any developed country? Probably it is possible only in a third world country like India. Mumbai has more than 60% of its population live in slums (4). Slums have increased dramatically since 1950s, despite of so many developmental programs. A person with 2 million rupees ($ 44,000) annual income, which constitute probably less than 1% of its population, does not dare to buy a decent apartment (leave alone having own house) in a decent locality and settle there in that financial capital. Honest economic activities in those cities are not sufficient to support a family there with decent living. Money from all over India is being accumulated in few metro cities. Yet many consider that as development! It is even more surprising that not many people and our policy makers understand what we are losing while trying to impose “development”, that not so educated Bibhutibhusan understood with his BA in history degree, about a hundred years ago!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Our fight against corruption and Anna Hazare

Probably we all are now aware of the recent uproar against corruption in India. People are angry. If anyone providing them an outlet to vent their frustration they readily grab it and participate in such “mass movements”. Our news hungry 24x7 media is more than happy to oblige anyone with an agenda. Everyone seems to be in favour of such movements. Naturally there is a huge market for it. Even corporate houses sponsoring some of the events. It is really surprising that if everyone is so against corruption, why we have such an extensive and intense corruption in almost every field of life there! The answer may lie in another observation. An office clerk joins Anna Hazare in the evening after taking bribe to protest against A Raja's 2G scam, a student after cheating in exam, a teacher after completing his private tuition evading his  teaching duties in the school, a doctor after prescribing some useless tests to unsuspecting patients and so on.

In reality, Indian society never learned what is democracy, what justice means since long; long before we got independence, long before British occupied the land. It is so contrasting if we think that a king, Gopala, in the Indian state of Bengal was among the first few democratically elected kings in the world (around 750 AD). One wonders how such a society reached its current state! That is not limited to political governance but present in every field of life. We need to analyse the problems more critically to find out suitable solutions.

It will be pertinent to understand how Indian society evolved. It is a largely accepted fact that general people from southern India are less corrupt. It coincides with the fact that north India had to face repeated foreign invasions, mainly from Muslim invaders who had very different social, religious, ethical and legal concepts as compared to the locals. South did not face that so often and so intensely. Those foreign invaders, first by the Middle Eastern or Central Asian Muslims and then Europeans (mainly the British) imposed a drastic change on our ways of lives. Many people, mainly men, used so many excuses to hide our own inability to protect our culture, our women, our ways of lives. Many such excuses took shape in form of religious dictates, distorted version of "tradition" and more awfully in the name of peace. Spread of “pardha” among women (which was present only among very few warrior communities like Rajputs, before Muslim invasion), imposing all sorts of rules (in the name of religion and tradition) to deter people asking questions, to curb personal freedom and our senses of justice; in short- to destroy of our own value and education system. Remember Nalanda university, one of the first and great organised universities in the world? It was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khalji around 1200 AD, signifying the start of decline of Indian education and society.

It also changed our perception about corruption. We all witnessed that ruling class do not obey laws that are imposed on others. Different set of rules are applicable to different people, depending on caste, religion, closeness to ruling class and so on. Since then breaking laws was (and still is) equated to power and a sure sign of the socio-political elites. When a common Indian breaks a law or manage any special privilege, s/he feels proud and get satisfaction (may be temporary) to be equated as an “elite”. General Indians forgot that laws are for them, to keep them safe and disciplined. Agreeability and sycophancy, instead of critical thinking and logic, became the rule to climb both social and professional hierarchy. That practice gradually eroded the social shame factor, the best and most effective deterrent against corruption in any country, in any society. We started accepting corruption in the name of reality. Gradually we lost the sense of justice and honesty. University professors, scientists, doctors, bureaucrats, teachers, police and many others from India, in India or abroad (with or without foreign degrees) are as corrupt and dishonest as any illiterate person. It affected our ability to make or reform laws in post-1947 India. Still more than half of our current Indian laws (both civil and criminal) were introduced by our colonial British rulers to rule, not to "govern", their “native” subjects. Most of these laws are highly ineffective today. Some are even anti-national. Recent prosecution of noted social activist and reformer Dr Binayak Sen under British introduced sedation law is one such example.

Not many policy decisions in India are well planned. Not even the much hyped economic liberalization in 1991. That was a mere compulsion after mortgaging 67 tons of gold in the Bank of England due to years of misrule and closed economy. We were desperate to save our economy from total melt down. We could not reform our civil governance and judiciary to match the requirement of a free market, liberalized economy. We naively wished that everything will fall in place due to so-called open market economy and privatization. We conveniently forgot that true “open market” (even in US) is as utopian as communism. Greed of a very small section of our population increased exponentially but we could not protect majority others, the common man (“amm admi” as per popular politicking) from the greed that allowed massive, extra-constitutional manipulation of the system. Those social “elites” include not only businessmen and industrialists but also politicians, bureaucrats, corporate managers, scientists, professors, doctors and other professionals. It simply added to the already high level of corruption (due to socialistic quota-license raj regime of pre-1991 era). Magnitude of recent scams are good indicators. 

We practically ruined almost all (if not all) of our democratic institutions. Universities and institutes start resembling party offices. Internal control mechanisms were effectively destroyed. That’s why none of the recent high profile scams were detected and/or prevented by the internal control mechanism of respective departments or ministries. All the scams came to light due to outside private (by people like Subramanium Swamy) or 24x7 media or Supreme Court interventions. Not a single high profile current office bearers could gather the courage or honesty or both to support the services by people like Binayak Sen or the ongoing anti-corruption movement initiated by Anna Hazare, a class 7 educated gentleman (in real sense of the word). It says a volume about our current society. Our political masters initially gave in to the demands of Anna Hazare in the wake of many state assembly elections. Once the elections were over and government started negotiating with team Anna, the real intension of our “elected representatives” started becoming clearer. They were more interested to discredit team Anna or “civil society” or anyone who raises voice against all pervasive corruption, than any meaningful discussion to draft an effective Jan Lokpal bill. Does it take much intelligence to imagine the level of cooperation and desire of our elected representatives to pass an effective Lokpal bill in a parliament where about one forth of the members (154 to be precise) and 10 cabinet ministers are having criminal cases pending against them (civil litigation that include financial crimes are not included)? It partly explains why the government drafted, much less stringent Lokpal bill failed to pass in Indian parliament in last 42 odd years.

In India, collective decision making hardly exists. That trend is also evident among many Indian professionals, managing a group of people under them, in India and abroad. Most of the meetings or negotiations are used mainly to inform (rather than discussing) others what few people, so-called higher authority (or "high command") already decided. Feudal nature of decision making, lack of taking responsibility is rampant in every section of our society, starting from the highest level of government to private companies to the lowest level of family issues. Remuneration and/or promotion is not always based on performance but one's ability to please higher authority. Many times the credit for a good job and blame/responsibility for a sloppy work goes, rather imposed, on other people (not the person who actually deserve it). We generally try to gloss over any past mistakes, avoid fixing responsibilities and forget to learn from that. We prefer to "move on" and end up doing the same mistakes, again and again. We build new universities, institutions to improve quality (of research and higher education) or crate new ministries to improve governance without analyzing and learning why our old institutions or ministries failed. That ultimately give rise to the "chalta hai" mentality, tendency of shifting responsibilities, as we often witness among Indian professionals (both in government and private enterprises), in India and abroad. We probably can not afford to care how to build a motivated group.
That attitude helps spreading the culture of mediocrity, erode our productivity and quality of work in the long run, in every field of life, starting from research to business to civil governance. "Success" in such situations depends more on one's ability to use the existing corrupt practices and loopholes (of our system) than on taking responsibility, improve productivity, adhere to professional ethics and, more importantly, desire to change the system that can enable us to do better, enable us to dream to become the best.

That systemic failure makes many able people frustrated who ultimately become aloof. Provokes many to seek justice or other avenues to address personal grievances. This is one of the major factors for not only fast spread of extremist movements like naxals but also for huge brain-drain and very low quality reverse brain-drain or "brain-gain" as some call it (going back to India). Many of our better quality manpower, established abroad, prefer not coming back and settling in India. Some do prefer contributing from abroad. That allows them to speak the truth while insulating themselves and their families from retaliation, as we often see against people like Satyendra Dubey.

Our political parties are no exception. Not a single political party has internal democracy to attract, groom and promote people with true leadership quality. All are run like dynasties, feudal kingdoms (barring the communists, so far). That’s one of the reasons for increasing tendencies of common people to take laws into their own hands. If an able person is discriminated against and can pinpoint the responsible person or authority, it is almost impossible to gag or stop him to seek "justice". Such people eventually find their ways. That may or may not be so constitutional, neither do they care.

Many feel that India probably need or will soon have an Egypt-Tunisia type revolution. They probably do not understand that Indian corruption has a democratic twist, unlike Arab countries. It is true that there is a strong selection pressure to promote people without any sense of justice, honesty and courage (to speak out and remain honest). But if you have the required qualifications, you can join the select club to enjoy the fruits of corruption and lawlessness. That extra-constitutional rights are not limited to friends and relatives of the king or social “elites”, unlike Arab countries. That safety-valve eases a lot of pressure from the cooker and prevents it from bursting early. That’s why rise of common-man politicians like Laloo, Mulayam, Mayawati did not have much positive impact on Indian society, despite of a huge initial promise, so far social equality, corruption in public lives and transparency in governance is concerned.

We also need to understand that staging a revolution is not the same or end of reforming a society. In fact, that is just the beginning of a multi-act drama. Later stages are more difficult and need much longer term, more intense preparation. We need to figure out whom do we think would fill the gap, in case of a successful revolution, as many hopes for. We do not have enough, qualified and, most importantly, honest people to replace the existing lot. That vacuum is not limited to politics but present in every field, every occupation in India. Our "test score" culture kills both natural leadership quality and scientific/technical ability. Over-emphasis on database type information, occasional fascination with knowledge do not allow us to become “wise”. We pathetically lack the ability to ask questions, solve problems and generate novel ideas- be it technical or scientific or social issues like corruption. In short, all of our professionals (be it politicians, police, scientists, professors, lawyers, doctors, engineers and so on) are coming from the same society, from the same pool of people with almost same education and grooming. We must not expect to make any sustainable change with such bunch of (mostly) mediocre and corrupt people. Our task becomes harder considering the fact that not a single country in the whole world with considerable period of foreign rule ever became a developed country, so far.

What is the way forward? Or should we keep on marching the same path and expect a divine miracle to become a “superpower”, “developed” country in future, as many Indians dream against all realistic logic?

I think the solution lies within. We cannot expect everyone to become honest but ourselves. Majority of us support corruption (in the name of "reality") when it benefits us. We start shouting only when we are at the receiving end. We fool ourselves. We must understand that we can not eat the cake and have it at the same time. Our homes are the best place to start that crusade, if I may say so. We need to teach our kids to have some sense of justice and honesty. We must allow or force them to face consequences of their actions, from very childhood. At the same time, we must not force them to accept corruption in the name of "reality" or "practical sense". That is more important than some rote memorization and test-score based “education”.

I do acknowledge that its not only very hard but also dangerous to oppose corruption in Indian situation. Many of the time the official complain goes to the same person against whom you are complaining! This is systemic. That's why the rate of prosecution by India's "premier investigation agency", CBI, is so poor (particularly against influential politicians and bureaucrats); that's why so many politicians are opposed to include Prime Minister under Jan Lokpal bill (as proposed by team Anna). We need to be little careful here while speaking out against corruption. Sometimes we may have to become “anonymous” to voice our concerns in more formal settings, in offices, in societies and so on. That is doable in this age of internet and 24x7 media activity.

Lastly, we must bring back the social shame factor, the best and most effective deterrent against corruption. It is our responsibility to make those openly or known corrupt people feel ashamed and socially outcast. If we have the desire, we surely can avoid making any matrimonial relationship with a known, unacceptably high (relatively speaking) corrupt person or children of such people. Generally a tamarind tree does not produce mangoes.

Again, we need to remember that social shame is the best deterrent to minimize corruption in any society and very effectively used in western societies. Can we do that to start our dream of a better India, while joining rallies and praising people like Anna Hazare in public forums?

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