When the Language of Love Withers away…

Uske Kad se uska andaza nahin lagaya jaa sakta…

Woh aasmaan hai… Magar jhuk ke chalta hai…

 

The personification of elegance of expression is what describes Urdu language to the best. A zillion poets and writers have chosen Urdu to speak their heart out. India has a history written in the language of grace. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has it as its official language. But the soul of language is withering away gradually because people are no longer keen to learn the language.

Urdu was made the official language of Jammu and Kashmir in the year 1889 under the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh and flourished in Maharaja Ranbir Singh’s regime. Both the rulers, despite being Dogra, chose to propagate Urdu language because people had embraced the language. Then, Maharaja Hari Singh took the beacon ahead and took measures to teach language in schools. It was Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who gave it the status of official language constitutionally. The language was used for the purpose of documentation in all government departments. For a long time, Urdu enjoyed the stature of being the language of masses. However, from last two decades, the deterioration of the language began.

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Urdu language was the thread that joined the hearts of leaders of nationalist movement with the people. Poets, writers & journalists expressed love for their motherland which evoked patriotism in hearts of people longing for freedom. After the partition, Pakistan declared Urdu as its national language. This is the point from where Urdu was stereotyped as a ‘Muslim’ language. As a matter of fact, Writers like Prem Chand, Dushyant Kumar, Upendra Nath Ashk, Rajinder Singh Bedi do not belong to Muslim community and have been great writers of Urdu. The language, which flourished from Jammu, is being abandoned from the area because of the misleading notion prevailing in the minds of people. A greater role in this has been of the negative propaganda run by the different political outfits.

The greatest apathy of the erosion of language lies in the fact that the governments are being indifferent towards the promotion of language. “After partition, no policy was framed by any government to protect Urdu language”, Said Shohab Inayat Malik, Head of Urdu Department, University of Jammu. In schools Urdu is being taught not as a language but as a subject that students need to pass the examination. Therefore, students are not able to speak even the elementary Urdu. Those who know it a little, are not able to write it in its script.

Urdu is the language that unites all three regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Many words of Urdu language are still a part of spoken language today because they provide people ease of usage. The government needs to promote the language so that its essence could be brought back. The state has no Urdu academy to impart the language to people in right manner. Urdu, which holds a civilization in itself, which is called the language of love and harmony should not lose its sanctity. It has to be promoted as a medium of expression not as a language belonging to a religion.

DELHI : TO BREATHE OR NOT TO BREATHE?

When a baby takes birth, the first thing he/she is going to do is breath independently sans its mother. All the pain that mother endures during nine months vanishes seeing a healthy baby taking breaths. The little one has an extremely fragile breathing system, nevertheless the air available for breathing is free. But if that baby has taken birth in Delhi one has to make sure that this ‘free’ air doesn’t cost him dearly. Yes! Thanks to the incessantly polluted air that has taken the Delhi to the list of the most polluted cities of the world.

Almost 10 years back, there were days when you could wake up in the morning, go out for a walk or exercise. You would feel fresh and vibrant. Today, that’s the time when the air is most polluted. You go out and you feel like you have inhaled large amounts of dust and smoke. Life feels chocked! What exactly went wrong? How did we reach here?

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Delhi currently is a residence to 1.67 crores of people. A large section of this population belongs to the migrants from other states. Rapid industrialization and setting up of industrial plants contributed greatly to this air pollution. With increase in population, movement of people increased enormously. Introduction of CNG buses and Delhi Metro provided relief for a brief period only. Disappointed with the irregularities of public transport system, many bought their own vehicles. This has accounted to around 7.2 million vehicles on roads on daily basis! Construction dust & burning of agricultural waste in neighbouring states added up to the current situation of city’s stifling atmosphere.

The current situation is a way more than alarming because half of the population is already suffocating to the effects of the air pollution. It is estimated that an average person breaths 20,000 liters of air each day. That means the more polluted the air is, the more treacherous it becomes for our lungs. Savage Particulate Matter PM 2.5 in Delhi’s air is already 15 times higher than the permissible limit. Now the effects of this PM 2.5 start from coughing, eye & nose irritation,  running nose, shortness of breath to long term effects like Asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks and cancers of lung and heart in extreme cases. So do we see what we are heading towards?

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India loses more than 6, 20,000 precious lives prematurely in a year due to air pollution. Delhi is already on the fences with an urgent need to tackle this issue before it’s too late. Since the majority of the pollution comes from the emission of vehicles, Government needs to look for the solution starting from them. National Green Tribunal’s order to ban vehicles older than 15 years couldn’t be implemented because of some logical resistance from owners and agencies. Looking at the ways adopted by the countries worldwide to curb air pollution, India can also find ways. London has implemented ‘low emission zone’ policy in which cars, buses which flout the emission standards are fined heavily. Jakarta has made its Sunday s car-free day in congested areas. Singapore has come up with Electronic Road Pricing technique, in which smart cards are installed in every vehicle and congestion charges are automatically deducted.

The public transport system needs to be regulated seriously. Large numbers of cars are causing roads jams which pollute the city immensely. Number of buses need to be multiplied and overall services need to be improved to win back the trust of the people. On individual basis, people should consider the evergreen methods of carpooling. Last but most powerful method can be the planting of trees in large numbers.

We have already reached the point where the serious implications of the polluted are visible on the people. Respiratory diseases are becoming rampant. With all this we are making only our own lives more miserable.

DON’T PLAY WITH NET NEUTRALITY!

“Innovation is serendipity, so you don’t know what people will make.” – Tim Berners Lee

Almost 25 years back when Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web, he knew that this invention is going to revolutionize the existence of the entire mankind. All these years, the world of internet has evolved into an astounding platform that has miraculously shrunken the barriers between the people. It is only at this point of time, what we are witnessing is a time where barriers are being put up on the realm of the internet to hinder free access to the information.

These barriers can be physically imposed (censorships/ban culture) or the so-called economical i.e. the much talked about threat to the Indian Net neutrality. Since this is the burning topic of the week, let’s just see why everybody is paranoid about it. While I’m writing this down almost 3 lakh mails have already been sent to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) by the people in order to request for preservation of net neutrality. The issue is to provide consumers with equal access to all kinds of content sans any discrimination on the basis of content or speed. That means (technically) preserving the internet access you have right now. If the points proposed in TRAI’s papers are executed, the Indian Internet world will absolutely doomed as that situation will be largely in favor of the telecom operators which will collaborate with certain website that you can access. If you want to access the content of other websites, you will have to pay more. That means an earnest attempt to create illusion of choices and illusion of freedom of information and expression.

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Now, the whole situation came into perspective when Telecom operators found Apps like Skype, Viber & WhatsApp’s calling feature (most recently) a serious threat to their telecom businesses. What they call OTT (Over the Top Services) is overrunning their revenues, so, they need to charge customers extra who want to use these services.

Well, in the age of innovation, the life span of any technology is ineffably short. Systems become obsolete in a few days when a new system takes over. Now instead of creating a dynamic business and moving with the time and upgrading their technology, they want to take customers back to Stone Age. While the world is witnessing incredible initiatives like Google’s Project Loon (balloon-powered internet by Google which aims to reach out to people sans internet connectivity) and other companies like Samsung, Apple, Microsoft are moving forward in technological innovation, this move by Telecoms seems to ironical.

India has internet penetration of approximately 19% with about 278 million internet users. We have third highest number of internet users in the world after China & USA. Internet access has increased the participation of the people in the social, political & economic processes tremendously due to the amount of ease this medium provides the user with. To play with net neutrality is directly linked to discouraging this participation which will ultimately cost the intellectual development of the country dearly. Instead of expanding the purview of internet penetration, this will hinder it.

Well.. I just wanted to know about it.

Well.. I just wanted to know about it.

Companies coming up with projects like Airtel Zero (By Airtel) & Inernet.org (By Facebook) in order to increase the internet penetration in the areas where it hasn’t reached are also technically violating the principle of net neutrality by allowing access through service provided by certain telecom operators to the websites with whom they have collaborated. Of course, they are in the market to expand their businesses that should not be done at the cost of playing with their obligation towards their customers. They already charge customers much more than the quality of service they provide us with. India is yet to develop the infrastructure which is lagging far behind as compared to the global standards. Our average internet speed is slowest in the Asia-Pacific Region (Less than 2Mbps). Indeed, the focus is in the wrong direction.

The thought of an internet sans net neutrality sends shivers down my spine thinking that it will thwart the freedom to seek information and expression altogether. If something like that takes shape of reality, it’s going to be nightmare of the people who don’t have the money plants at their places. The fact that people in power fail to realize is that the internet is an efficacy. The Government has to preserve it!

You can still join the brigade by going to www.savetheinternet.in ..!

INDIAN TOBACCO INDUSTRY : MANUFACTURER OF FATAL ADDICTION

‘Chewing tobacco products is injurious to health’, a hollow warning we see on TV ads and films whenever an actor/actress comes on screen enjoying the bite. That warning is supposed to put some sort of fear in the viewer’s mind about the ill-effects of tobacco products and the repercussions of consuming them. But unfortunately that works like any other thing appearing on screen along with the film. It blows away into air the very next time chewer’s urge to consume nicotine strikes.

Tobacco industry in India is one of the most prominent industries that have a big share in Indian economy. Let’s have a glance at some facts about Indian Tobacco Industry:

• After China, India is the second largest producer of tobacco in the world.
• Indian tobacco and tobacco products earn about 10,271 crore rupees annually by the way of excise revenue.
• The production of tobacco products includes 48% of chewing tobacco, 38% of bidis & 14% cigarettes.
• Thanks to the bizarre taxing system on tobacco products, 85% of the tax revenue is earned from cigarettes alone.
• India currently exports its tobacco products in almost 100 countries across the world.
• Tobacco, as an important commercial crop, provides employment to nearly 36 million people, who are engaged in various processes of cultivation, manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products.
• ITC is the company with the biggest share in tobacco industry with 72% share in the market.

 

 

The irony lies behind the fact that products and commodities were supposed to be ruled by the consumers but today they rule the consumers. Tobacco industry’s colossal contribution in revenue generation is the major reason behind India’s weak warning regimes. As a result, one million people die every year due to the fata]l effects of consuming tobacco products. Big share of this number includes children who fall prey to these products due to availability of these products at dirt cheap prices. After all big-glitzy numbers of revenues, it is also an ugly truth that our country’s health care costs due to tobacco heavily outweigh the revenues earned through tobacco products.

The government should create a balance with either by banning all sorts of tobacco products or let laissez fair prevail on the consumption of tobacco and instead levy heavy taxes on all tobacco products so that extra tax could compensate the rising medical cost which the nation is forced to bear.

Tobacco is a heinous devil that makes the lives of people worse than hell. The people who consume it are bound to suffer its consequences but the family members of the person go through an unbearable trauma of losing their loved one. While putting things into calculating the profits and losses we forget that this loss is something that can never be measured in quantity.

 

 

Sources : http://www.ibef.org/exports/tobacco-industry-india.aspx
http://www.indianmirror.com/indian-industries/tobacco.html

RTE – MEDIOCRE EFFORTS, UNREALISED DREAMS

Present day India has come a long way since the time of her independence. We started off from being an economically squeezed colonial country and today, we’re a gaudy flash of the developing world. The growth has been remarkable in almost all the aspects. But it’s also an unfortunate truth that due to the sudden population explosion, qualitative growth remained a perturbed reality. With such a huge manpower, we could have achieved higher number of growth rates but sans the right kind of education and skills imparted to them, a major chunk of this manpower remains unutilized.

In the year 2000, India joined hands with 189 countries of United Nations in order to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. One of the 8 goals was “To achieve Universal Primary Education.” India set a goal for her to achieve this universal primary education, eliminating gender inequality among all sections of the society by the year 2015.

 

A major step taken in this direction was the enactment of the Right to Education Act in the year 2009. This act gave hope to millions of children whose dream to learn and get education remained a dream because of their unsound financial background. In these 5 years, many got close to their dream but for many others, it remained a pipe dream.

We’re finally reaching the deadline to achieve our MDGs but we’re lagging behind in fulfilling this goal. As a matter of fact, our country has brilliant laws, policies and plans on papers. When we talk about the implementation part, they are nowhere on the ground. RTE’s key provision had 25% reservation for the children hailing from Economically Weaker Sections. After 5 years, India has been able to fill a mere 29% of the reserved 21.4 lakh seats for these children. The Report of RTE also stated that out of 2.6 lakh unaided private schools with Class I, only 45,000 schools are enrolling students under economically weaker sections. As a result, millions of children who can do wonders with their knowledge nourished brains are still out of school despite right to education being a fundamental right in our country.

Those children who somehow manage to get into schools depend on the teachers to show them the right path of knowledge. The goal to place well trained teachers with the right aptitude of teaching in all primary schools is unfulfilled. District Information System for Education (DISE)’s data says that out of 19.83 posts sanctioned, 5.68 posts are lying vacant and 19.69% teachers are untrained. 53.6% teachers have attended in-service training. All the states reported that teachers are engaged in non-teaching activities, other than those specified in RTE Act. And 8.5% teachers and Principals are getting paid without even coming to schools. What impact are we expecting with this kind of system on the minds of children? Teachers are the noblest beings for the gullible minds of students. Some even idolize them and take them as their example. With this kind of behavior the future of child will be a dystopia sans the rightful knowledge. Our mythology boasts teachers like Dronacharya who helped his students be the best archers of the country and Arjun realizing truest of his potential. The present situation is a big irony for the country.

 

Clearly, we are lagging far behind of achieving universal primary education and the deadline i.e. 31st March 2015 has arrived. What is required now is not only bringing all the students to school, irrespective of their economic and social background, but also providing them with the qualitative education so that they can build their future with their own skills. Serious reforms are needed in the entire system of education. The selection of teachers should be done after following a tough and thorough process to make sure that only the best, dedicated and the ones who have right aptitude for teaching are selected, not those who join teaching profession as a last choice. Further, there should be a well-placed monitoring and inspection system to ensure that all the teachers are discharging their duties in the same way as is expected of them. Moreover, the focus of the education system should be on making the process of learning practical and skill oriented and not simply theoretical. The students need to develop the critical and analytical abilities from the very beginning to lay strong roots right from childhood. Then only they can contribute towards the country’s development.

Education is an investment on the future of the country and this should be taken as a matter of topmost priority over the other matters and not merely as an area in which statistics are to be increased on a particular level. If children are not educated properly the doomsday for the country with a stagnant growth rate won’t be far away. The country will continue to lag behind at international level. It’s high time every child gets his share of knowledge and be an asset for the country and the governments at national and state levels show real urgency to make it happen.

NOT DISABLED… THEY ARE DIFFERENTLY ABLED

She had a vibrant smile… That’s what caught my attention. I was too tensed thinking about my exam when my eyes suddenly fell on her. She was smiling at me. Her smile was so contagious, that I had to smile back at her. Usually In metro people are either busy with their smartphones or chatting with the person they are travelling with. This girl on the other hand, was looking at the people around her. Then looked at me and smiled, as if this was what she wanted to do. Her face appeared like a bright sunflower when she smiled. 

Few minutes later, Kashmere Gate station came and she stood up. It took me unawares when I saw her adjusting her crutches. She walked towards the door, smiled and moved on. I was surprised that I was so tensed over a petty exam and her life was itself an exam and she was facing it with that spirited smile. Well what do you call people like her? Society has given them a very lame term called ‘Disabled’. The word, as defined by the Oxford’s dictionary is physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. I wonder if that word describes her. Though, she faced some problem in walking but her spirit seemed indomitable. For her, ‘Differently-abled’ is a better term. The word ‘disable’ itself gives person a feeling that he has become a matter of pity for society. This ‘disabled’ tag puts them into a category that is to be treated less than others basis they have some disability.

 There are around 1 billion people in the world who live with some kind of disability, of which, about 40-80 million people reside in India. A disability may be of two types: one, which happens to be with the accident of birth and the other which is a consequence of some mishappening during the lifetime. The people with any kind of physical or mental disability have to face a lot of struggle in every walk of their life. The underdeveloped infrastructure of our country makes situations even difficult for these people. The real pain doesn’t lie in the condition on which they have no control, but in the behavior of the people that follows after getting into this condition. The very feeling that the only thing that people see in them is their disability keeps on eating them from inside. Sympathy is the only feeling that is shown to them. Prejudices add to their troubles when people think they can’t perform the tasks well. Moreover, many people believe that disability is a result of some sins of previous birth which one has to pay off in this birth. Disability has scientific reasons and some of them can even be cured if proper treatment is done. People with mental disabilities face more strife in their life. They need to be treated with sensitivity but people feel that they are incapable and can never lead a normal life. With proper training and motivation people with mental disabilities too can live a normal life.

Whatever that kind of disability is, these people are excluded from the mainstream society. But why? Why can’t people treat them as somebody normal without constantly showing pity towards them?

Their life isn’t their choice so why should they be treated any less to the other people. Moreover, it’s like pulling them back to the well from where they are trying to come out. They should never be reminded that they are any less than other people. Instead they should be given equal opportunities in all respects. People with disabilities are never disabled. They are always differently-able, which implies the special ability that God has infused them with. What lies in the concept of ‘disabled’ is the mindset of the mainstream society towards these people, which needs to be changed. They should not be made invisible in the society by focusing more on their impairment and ignoring what wonders they can do in the society. Sudha Chandran, Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller are the people who never let their disability be an obstacle in the path of their success. And by treating them equal to the others, these differently-abled people could be made to realize the best of their potential.

INDIAN DEMOCRACY : A DREAM HALF REALISED

Out of sight is out of mind is a phrase that our politicians seem to have drunken upon. No matter which direction you see (that includes within your house), you’ll definitely find some party’s banner/poster or any promotional item. They have gone into every space that you probably can look into with their carefully designed advertising and PR strategies. Indeed, everything comes at a cost. So is our democracy.

Every election season political parties spend earths and moons to woo the voters in order to gain power. Spending on any political campaign has always been a matter that political parties never really wish to talk about except in the cases where it gives them a chance to pour mud on the opponents. The recent case of AAP’s iffy donors giving 2 Crore rupees donation sparked off the debate of political parties funding system once again. By putting their list of donors on their website, AAP got into limelight of dubious amounts of party funds but almost all the political parties rank same in terms of funding from donors but they don’t really come into light.

Since the time Indian democratic system stood on its feet, its people have seen some of the most vibrant election seasons that have continued to add more hues into the prismatic shades of election campaigns. Economists estimated that candidates and parties in the 2009 Indian national elections spent roughly Rs.18 thousand crore on campaign expenditures. Election spending alone is said to have increased India’s GDP growth by .5 percent for two quarters of 2009. A report says that 2014 general elections were the costliest elections of Indian history with an estimate of Rs.30 thousand crore spending on campaigns. With all our spendthrifts, we now stand second, only after US in terms of money spent on election campaigns.

It’s a well-known fact that in a country with a huge population, elections require enormous funds for reaching out to the people. From last few years, we have seen a shift from larger number of national parties to greater number of state/ regional parties and the three tier system requires more machinery to win elections. Now, contesting elections at all these levels and winning in each of them comes at a cost, which is paid by the donors.

According to some figures compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms, for the 2013-14 financial, 90% of donations to national parties were from business houses. It is obvious that the donations from the business houses are aimed at certain amounts of favors in the policymaking machinery to make their businesses run smoothly. So, if this much funds will be raised from corporate houses, won’t it affect the development process on the whole?

Another research says that a greater number of political alliances have been formed with real estate and cement industries. As Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the president of Center for Policy Research wrote in 2010 “The discretionary power the state has with respect to land is the single biggest source of corruption in India”. With a great share in the GDP (7%) Real estate also has a larger share in black money composition.

Indeed all these are the repercussions of the loopholes in the Representations of the People’s Act 1951. As per recent guidelines of Election Commission, the political parties need to maintain book of accounts, which should be audited regularly. This should be annually submitted to the Election commission of India every year but it is still not mandatory for parties to disclose their donation accounts. The rules say that amount below Rs.20,000 can be donated anonymously. Which means a person can donate a huge amount in parts by remaining anonymous.

As per the rules of election commission, a candidate can’t spend more than 70 lakh rupees on a parliamentary seat and 28 lakhs rupees on assembly seat. But extravagant election campaigns make it very evident that these rules are hardly followed. In order to grab the senses of voters, the political parties spend a colossal amount on advertisements on every medium. India’s advertising industry has seen an estimate of $800 million injection during election season, according to an insight by Madison media.

With so much money being spent on campaigns and little known about the sources from where it all comes, democracy’s transparency factor remains a rosy dream. A lot has to be done in order to make the whole system of election campaign more pellucid. Our country boasts of the largest democracy of the world but this system is yet to be held accountable to the people. The rules and regulations on the part of election commission need to be more stringent that define the real cost of elections in a transparent way. Unless the elections come out of the trend of money show, the quality of democracy can’t be improved.  Under the circumstances, a question mark remains whether such democracy empowers all the people of the country or only elite group of people!