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Monday, 24 February, 2014

Ban on Wendy Doniger's Book

"Ban" on Wendy Doniger's Book

Well, I happened to read quite a few stories, news items, emails, etc. on the subject.

A couple of points jumped out at me:

  1. Apparently, Penguin withdrew the book in response to a court case.
  2. Apparently, there was (and is) no Government ban on the book.
  3. Apparently, a whole lot of supposedly fringe elements belonging to the "right-wing" Hindutva groups had raised a lot of objections to the book.
  4. To the best of my limited knowledge, Penguin is a publisher of repute, and a responsible one at that. 
  5. Penguin, being the kind of publisher it happens to be, is unlikely to be a "pushover" which can be coerced into taking such a decision
  6. The mainstream media seems to be screaming from the roof tops about how such a "ban" happens to be a war against "Freedom of Expression"
  7. I'm yet to locate a single article / interview in any mainstream media which even claims to give specific details of what were the objections raised against the book and why Penguin chose to not merely withdraw, but also chose to promise to destroy all possible copies of the book!

Why is it that all of us are privy to one side of the story? Is this true freedom of expression? Will someone officially throw some light on the shady truth? If Penguin has indeed fallen prey to "lumpen elements" as people claim, has the Government filed any suo moto case against those "lumpen elements"? If not, why not?

On the contrary, if Penguin has genuinely felt that the objections raised against the book are indeed justified, why can't someone let us know the real truth in full detail?

The truth must come out - Or else, people will tend to assume anything they please, which is never a desirable state of affairs.



Friday, 13 September, 2013

Hurdle race for Clinical trials

Crazy ideas for obtaining informed consent

I just read an article in Economic times dated September 12, 2013 which says that obtaining an audio-visual informed consent of every patient who agrees for being part of a drug trial is proposed to be made mandatory.

  Brief Excerpts from the article:

As India moves towards becoming one of the first countries to mandate that audio-visual consent has to be taken for patients enrolled in clinical trials, pharmaceutical companies and contract research organisations warn that maintaining heaps of confidential electronic data would emerge as a massive challenge.

“An audio-video of the informed consent process of individual subject, including the procedure of providing information to the subject and his understanding on such content, shall be maintained by the investigator for record,” said a recent draft notification of the health ministry. 

What do you think of the above proposal?

Several questions crop up in my mind:

  • Is it practical?
  • Will the patients agree to be filmed?
  • What will be the cost implications?
  • How are all these audio-visual evidence going to be preserved and for how long?
  • What happens to privacy issues?
  • Can we be sure that the audio-visual evidence will not be misused or abused?
  • Who will have access to the above evidence?
  • Who is going to monitor the implementation of the proposal?

I guess that this is as crazy a proposal as I've ever heard.

The doctor readers of my blog ought to raise their voices against this proposal in the appropriate forum.



Sunday, 25 August, 2013

Shameful instance of Discrimination

Modi's Gujarat: All is NOT well, apparently!

Came across a news item involving something that made me feel ashamed that such a thing is happening in my country:

Apparently, a shopping mall in Gujarat actually introduced an entry fee of Rs. 20/= on EID Day. You'll perhaps start saying that there's nothing wrong in it. But wait! This entry fee was applicable exclusively to MUSLIMS and not to any other person who wished to enter the mall!

First and foremost, I hope and pray that the above news item is completely false. That would make me guilty of spreading rumours. In which case, I will gladly admit my mistake and apologise.

However, if it happens to be true, it is certainly a new depth at unacceptable discrimination.

Will someone tell me as to whether any action is being contemplated to prevent such blatant acts of discrimination?



Thursday, 6 June, 2013

National Food Security Bill

Food Security is Critical

No Ordinance Please!

At one plane, hunger and starvation deaths are a ground reality in India. 

At another plane, we're running a huge fiscal deficit. We certainly require laws to ensure right to life by providing Universal Food Security. 

At the same time, we can't let the fiscal deficit go out of hand. Any increase in fiscal deficit is a direct attack on the poor, because they are the ones who are most impacted by the bane of inflation.

Considering the complexities involved and the divergent opinions that are there regarding the modalities of achieving Universal Food Security across different political parties, it is certainly ridiculous that the Government is trying to push the National Food Security Bill through by way of an Ordinance. They must not do so. There must be an extensive debate in parliament with adequate time for obtaining the views and ideas of all political parties.

Obviously we must take this up on a priority basis, if required by having a special session of parliament, considering the urgency of the matter.

The delay of every single day in passing a Food Security bill results in additional loss of life of the poor.



Thursday, 30 May, 2013

Dangers due to failing Governance!

Do we have a right to complain about

Failing Governance?

In the recent past, there have been an ever-increasing list of articles in newspapers and incidents covered by TV Channels pertaining to:

  • Violence against women
  • Farmer Suicides
  • Naxal menace
  • Virtually endless scams, scandals involving both governments and corporates
  • Paralysis in Policy-making
  • Problems with virtually EACH of our neighbouring nations
  • Lack of cooperation between states, between states and the Centre on various issues

The common thread in all the above is the declining standards of Governance.

Simultatneously, there continuse to exist a different world populated by upper middle class sophisticated urbanites and by High-networth-individuals. This group of the "Haves" continues to indulge in a quality life style, enjoying all kinds of goodies. While a small number of these may perhaps be actively corrupt individuals, the vast majority of this group is represented by:

  • Hard working individuals cutting across all age groups and includes women and men in equal measure
  • Professionals
  • Successful entrepreneurs
  • Educated individuals
  • Financially successful organised sector employees

What is disappointing (in fact depressing), however, is that most of the above "Haves" actually don't give a damn about Governance related issues. They have a sharp focus on their own micro-lives. They get educated well, earn well, spend well, and live in a cucoon. Their homes are part of multi-block apartments deep inside reasonably well-protected colonies which often prove to be quasi-independent ecosystems with their own physical and social infrastructure. Like the kid Gautama Buddha, many of these folks don't even begin to see true poverty, the plight of the "Have-nots", the suffering of the vast majority.

Many of them (especially those under the age of, say, 20-25 years) have perhaps never:

  • Stood in a queue in a ration shops to buy their groceries (it would indeed be surprising if they are consciously aware that ration shops still exist in cities)
  • Understood the impact of not having more than 3-4 sets of clothing for young children of their drivers, servant maids, scavengers, peons, etc.
  • Comprehended the plight of having to choose between medical care for an ailing dependent parent, education of a child and saving for retirement (Often, saving for retirement takes a beating, resulting in the creation of an entire generation of dependent ailing and/or aged parents in the future as well).
  • Imagined that money spent by their family on a pleasant evening of a movie at a mall followed by a dinner would be sufficient to take care of the entire monthly expenditure of a whole family of 5-6 persons from an impoverished background.

Sadly, I can't even blame these youngsters from the family of "Haves". The blame squarely falls on their parents, teachers and the society at large.

To top it off, the "Haves" don't hesitate to use all their resources (legal and otherwise, ethical and unfair) at their disposal to further strengthen the prevailing disparity of income and wealth. To take a simple, mundane, day-to-day example, most of the "Haves" among the salaried classes get regular increments and promotions year after year. But when it comes to increasing the salary of their watchmen, servant maids, etc., they rarely do it automatically. Certainly not on an annual basis. Most certainly not sufficiently to cover inflation. In fact, any such revision happens only under dire threats of resignation (if the "Haves" have not planned for an alternative already).

Any person who has ever bought an apartment or got a driving licence or studied from an engineering or medical college or studied at a high-quality neighbourhood convent in any city would have directly or indirectly participated in the process of bribery and corruption. Having derived the benefits of such bribery, the very same "Haves" tend to sermonise and criticise their political masters for their corrupt practices. Taking it to ridiculous heights, many of the "Haves" refuse to participate in the political process as either candidates or campaigners or even voters, calling it "the ultimate gutter". And expect that positive changes will occur entirely on their own, almost as if by magic.

The "Haves" can't have the cake, eat it, preserve it for posterity and start a bakery. If they want to make India truly free of corruption, they need to jump into the fray and participate actively.

And this participation needs to be in numbers comparable to the crowds that one sees in an IPL match or a Rajnikant movie.

Then, and only then, will any meaningful change happen in our society.



Saturday, 20 April, 2013

Demotion and ignominy first, Appointment as IRDA Chief next!

Demotion and ignominy first,
Appointment as IRDA Chief next!

This, then, is the perplexing story of TS Vijayan, ex-Chairman of Life Insurance Corporation of India, who has now been appointed as the chief of Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority, the regulator of the Insurance sector - Read this news item in Economic Times first, before moving on to my thoughts on the news:

I do not wish to go into the merits of whether or not TS Vijayan ought to have been demoted from the position of Chairman, LIC. Nor do I intend saying anything about his credentials to occupy the position of IRDA Chief.

However, I wish to emphasise that one of the above two decisions by the powers that be is blatantly wrong.

After all, when a person is demoted from the position of Chairman, LIC to the position of Managing Director, LIC, it is not a routine decision taken without due thought and due process. Obviously, the government of the day, after going through all the relevant acts of omission and commission, all the available data points, all the necessary questioning of concerned stakeholders, came to the conclusion that TS Vijayan ought to be demoted.

Let's call this Decision 1.

A few months go by. The then Finance Minister goes on to become the President of India. A different person moves into the role of Finance Minister. And guess what happens? Another round of consultations. Another due process. Presumably another evaluation of multiple canidates for a key vacancy of IRDA Chief. And, finally, TS Vijayan is appointed as the big boss of IRDA.

Let's call this Decision 2.

To my limited understanding, if Decision 1 is a correct decision, Decision 2 is not merely an inappropriate decision, but an act of negligence which is sure to have an adverse impact on the confidence of stake holders in the Insurance Regulator. And vice versa.

Is this a desirable situation?



Thursday, 28 March, 2013

Hindi Imposition through the Back-Door???

Hindi Imposition through the Back-Door???

I just came across an advertisement in the Hindu and Times of India - This was released by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. This advertisement is pertaining to the Readjustment of Representations of SC & ST in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Bill, 2013:

Interestingly, the advertisement invites suggestions to be sent in this connection but, surprisingly, insists that suggestions can be sent ONLY in either English or Hindi.

Coming as it does in the aftermath of the recent attempt to change the rules of UPSC Exams (for entry into IAS, IPS, etc.), this is truly shocking and a clear case of imposition of Hindi through the backdoor.

After all, how many people from interior rural areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, etc. would know enough of English or Hindi? There must be a provision to send such suggestions in all the major official languages of India such as Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Telugu, etc.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: I am not trying to be a regional language chauvinist.

My only query: What happens to equity? If this goes on in a similar vein, I'm sure there will be a series of anti-Hindi agitations. India has enough problems of its own. Let the government not try and create more problems!