Crush the Enemy Within

A careful examination of the reactions of the civil-society; the secularists, and the reporting by the media connected with the “incidents and events” in India, over the last 28 years, beginning with the 1993 Mumbai blasts shows a very hypocritical prejudice. When those seen as perpetrators of the crime were Muslims, the standard line was, “terrorism has no religion.” And there were numerous instances of the kind. However, in an exceptional instance, where the crime could be attributed to Hindus; the untoward event was showcased as unassailable “Hindu Terrorism.”

To kill even the imagery of “killing for or in the name of religion” Hindus are possibly the only people in the world, who, rather than kill, have got killed. They have never attacked anyone for propagating their religion. Hindus have welcomed people of all nationalities, faiths and cultures, when they came pursuing their personal, logical dreams and aspirations. Only under a threat to their own survival caused by a “Fire & Sword” tenet of the external aggressors, did the Hindus invoke “Maa Kali” to rekindle their sacrificial fire and then did not stop until they have driven the aggressors back to where they came from.

Christian or Muslim, though they have just recently converted and still have lots of Hindu content in their spiritual lives, somehow believe that they belong to a cultural unit altogether different form the Hindu one. Hindustan to them is where they live, yet it is not Holy land to them, which is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Naturally therefore, their love is divided. They must set their Holy-land above India in their love and allegiance. It is however, a folly, when Indian Muslims start looking at Pakistan as their fatherland and/or holy-land. If the majority of the Indian Muslims can free themselves from their prejudices coming from such ignorance, and as the patriotic and noble – minded amongst them have always been doing; and begin to love Hindustan as their fatherland, the story of their conversions, forcible in millions of cases is too recent to make them forget . . . that they inherit Hindu blood in their veins.

If a Sister Nivedita or an Annie Besant could become a Hindustani in spite of being from a different Nation (rashtra), Race (Jati), Civilization (Sanskriti) and Holy land (pavitra bhoomi); Hindu-ness must be something more profound than the what it is being made out to be by the propagators  of the malicious scare of “Hindu-Terror.” This propaganda gives fire to the deviant and the misled to form into scattered hooligan groups adorning the “saffron” and creating mischief. All these are rudderless groups of young people out seeking media limelight through acts of misplaced adventurism. They are ‘rogues and goondas’ exhibiting a religious fervour at the most, not necessarily driven by religion; some of them neither Hindus nor with Hindu names; but for sure, not terrorists.

Unfortunately, there are no external aggressors and there is no “fire & sword” tenet in the present day attacks on Hindu-ness of India which has always stood for universal peace and brotherhood. The aggressors are enemies within; and they are using the tenets of “propaganda, unrest and division.” They are not the enemies of Hindus or friends of Muslims. They are simply bigoted, selfish, blood-thirsty hyenas waiting to feast on the remnants of the wealth and flesh of India, which they believe would fall prey to the roaring lion of “Maa Kali” or the ‘tandava’ of “Bhagawan Shiva”

True Hindus are trying their best, as they ought to do, to develop the consciousness of and a sense of attachment to the greater whole, whereby Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Christians and Jews would feel as Indians first and every other thing afterwards. But whatever progress India may have made to that goal one thing remains almost axiomatically true – not only in India but everywhere in the world – that a nation requires a foundation to stand upon and the essence of the life of a nation is the life of that portion of its citizens whose interest and history and aspirations are most closely bound up with the land and who thus provide the real foundation to the structure of their national state.

Multiple ethnicity and religiosity is the strength of India. This provides cultural and social diversity, variety and enrichment within the mega space called Bharat. Hindutva or Hindu-ness is plural and should not be mistaken as a synonym for Hindu-religion. Yet India needs cleansing in the nature of weeding out of the enemy within. It is unfortunate that most of such enemies have Hindu names and origins. They are deep in a new kind of “Intellectual terrorism.”  Indians and Hindus cannot drink with equanimity this cup of bitterness and political servitude at the hands of those whose only aspiration is to feast on the putrefied flesh from the corpse of Hindustan. Whenever under aggression, Hindustan has looked to Vedic wisdom. “Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached” is a shloka of Katha Upanishad which was popularized in the late 19th century by Swami Vivekananda.

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Multiple sources of like-minded thought are humbly acknowledged for the above expressions. First published 25 Feb 2021

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Customer Disservice in the Name of Service

What could be the height of customer service – this question was answered by a former Managing Director of LIC of India during an informal gathering – and he had described it as a hypothetical episode:

“A customer walks into the LIC office, a multi storey building in south Mumbai, gets his life insured, climbs up to the top, and takes a jump from top which would definitely result into his death. While he is falling down, an LIC official extends his hand out of the window and presses a cheque for his claim settlement, so that the claim is in already in his hand when he is hits the ground and is discovered dead.”

Howsoever macabre the narration may feel, the reality of expectations both from the point of customer and customer-service personnel is captured realistically.

Marketing chases growth through a combination of four basic approaches –

expand the possibility for consumption,

enlarge the number of occasions for consumption,

swell the number of consumers, and

increase consumption per occasion of consumption.

A simple example for any typical mouth-wash will show the above approaches in practice. Let us understand the product and its evolution.

We have probably been cleaning our teeth ever since humans began using tools. From toothbrushes made out of sticks, to dental floss made out of horse hair, we have always been mindful of our oral health. But what about a mouthwash and when did we start swishing liquid around hoping for cleaner mouths?

There are references to mouthwash in Chinese, Greek, Egyptian and Roman literature, but the most well recorded early instances of humanity using mouthwash comes from ancient Rome, in A.D. 1. The Romans used to buy bottles of Portuguese urine and use that as a rinse. GROSS! Importing bottled urine became so popular that the emperor Nero taxed the trade. The ammonia in urine was thought to disinfect mouths and whiten teeth, and urine remained a popular mouthwash ingredient until the 18th century. [So much for the modernists of the world who ridicule, deride, mock and scorn at the medicinal use of urine of cows and auto-urine therapists like Morarji Desai]

People have used some strange combinations – besides urine – as mouthwash. Tortoise blood was once thought to disinfect mouths and clean teeth, and mixtures of berries, mint leaves and vinegar or wine has also been used as mouthwash. In the 12th century, Saint Hildegard von Bingen advocated that swishing pure, cold water could remove plaque and tartar.

Known as the “father of modern microbiology,” Anton van Leeuwenhoek is credited for discovering oral bacteria in the 18th century. Upon his discovery, he experimented with a variety of solutions that could kill the bacteria. Leeuwenhoek discovered that he could immobilize and kill bacteria by dousing them in ammonia and/or alcohol. It is around this time that alcohol became the most popular ingredient used in mouthwash – and it is still used today!

In 1865, English doctor Joseph Lister became the first surgeon to perform an operation in a chamber that had been sterilized with antiseptic – a practice that was very uncommon. After Lister’s practice was discovered to reduce mortality rates, it became a more widespread practice.

Inspired by Dr. Lister, Robert Wood Johnson and Dr. Joseph Lawrence modernized surgical sterilization practices and established the iconic company Johnson & Johnson. In 1879, Dr. Lawrence created Listerine – a mouthwash used for cleaning mouths and sterilizing surgical wounds.

By 1895, Listerine was sold to Lambert Pharmaceutical Co. and dentists began to observe the cleaning power of the mouthwash. In 1914, Listerine became the first prescription mouthwash to be sold over the counter in the United States.

Today, we can buy mouthwash for gum health, to help with plaque build-up and to prevent gingivitis. There is mouthwash for just about every oral ailment that we can have. [expand the possibility for consumption].

We are advised to use mouthwash every time we brush our teeth but also before every social interaction [enlarge the number of occasions for consumption].

Mouthwash is for everyone, adolescents, adults and the elderly, with normal oral health [swell the number of consumers].

We are advised not to dilute the mouthwash, its pungency being an indicator of its efficiency and to use sufficient (more) quantity of mouthwash – as per the measuring cup provided free – every time we use it [increase consumption per occasion to consume].

In the pursuit for such growth in sales, more particularly in case of consumption of services, machine driven CRM software has had a field day. CRM specialists can be heard professing, “If you are not focused on receiving and using customer feedback, you are missing out on an amazing growth tool. Gathering customer feedback throughout the entire customer journey is of great importance to the buyer life cycle, marketing campaigns and the entire consumer experience. As focuses shift to improving this experience, continuous feedback will be required.”

There are other claims of the kind, “Due to the recent technology and digital transformation boom, an entire ‘customer revolution’ has taken place and a new breed of informed and socially engaged Customer 2.0 has appeared. No longer is price or product the reason why a customer does business with you. Today, it’s all about the customer experience. To be competitive, you need to go above and beyond expectations and deliver a great experience.”

While all such exaggerated statements are correct, the missing link is treating a customer as a human being with ‘individualized identity’ and not as a commodity.

A sad and inhuman experience a few months back is an example of how customers are undifferentiated items of a commodity. [This is not a made up story and I have documented evidence to prove it should the hospital in question wish to challenge it].

Smt xxxxxx Gupta, mother of my close friend breathed her last at a premier private hospital in Jaipur.  Since CRM systems of hospitals maintain Customer-records in the name of patients, their automated CRM system sent a message “Dear xxxxxx Gupta, Thank you for availing services at Fortis. Request you to spare 60 seconds to share your experience with us. Click here: https://tinyurl.com/y3pufy8n?id=FxBCHqV8a

The system did not capture that Smt xxxxxx Gupta was already dead. My friend, a higher-ranking vice-chancellor, was crestfallen with the experience. He responded, “on behalf of my mother in the heaven, I am sending you the following response… ‘your customer service manager is welcome to visit me here in this tranquil and serene place (cremation ground) for a feedback’ …”

The CRM system was at its best in replying to late Smt xxxxxx Gupta, “Thank you for your valuable feedback.   We are sorry to learn that your experience wasn’t up to your satisfaction. We have taken your feed back into consideration and shall take appropriate action. We wish you good health always.”

The counter-response to the reply supplied by my friend against the request for feedback from late Smt xxxxxx Gupta is rubbing salt in fresh wounds.

What has really gone wrong? The answer is simple – the CRM database refuses to acknowledge the difference between a customer and a consumer. In this case, Smt xxxxxx Gupta was a consumer while her son was the customer. The contact details captured were of the customer but the feedback was being solicited from the consumer. The CRM system did not know if it was seeking feedback from the consumer of the customer. This is a case where the consumer is dead and the post sales feedback has rendered a disservice to the customer.

I have had personal experiences of receiving unending trail of phone calls from Maruti Authorised Nexa Service Stations chasing me for feedback, so much so that upon my refusal to provide feedback, I have been chastened by the customer service executives that I was legally duty-bound to provide the feedback. I have evidence to prove that the nuisance did not stop much until after I had escalated my suffering and harassment to the senior management of Maruti Udyog Limited.

These days, I and my spouse are suffering at the incompetent, uncaring and arrogant customer service team at Axis Bank. They are very good at hitting the self-esteem of their customers. We have been their customer since last 25-years. I have taken up the matter with the RBI Ombudsman and hope that the service failure is now dealt with quickly and squarely. A similar unpleasant experience with Corporation Bank was dealt with by their management very quickly and humanely where I was treated with dignity. They have succeeded in retaining me as their customer.

It is unfortunate that many service providers use Customer feedback to soften and pre-empt customer reaction to lapses in service rendered rather than any genuine concern for better customer service or improved customer experience.

It is time for the customer to stop taking bullshit from marketers and service-providers. It is time for the customer to REJECT such marketers and RAISE VOICE against such disservice.

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First published 17 Dec 2020

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The LANCET’s Pessimism on India’s optimism

Both, human nature and human custom, has constraints and boundaries which keep reminding us of human imperfection and of the fragility of real communities. Pessimism is the recognition that these constraints and boundaries make impossible any planned, rational transformation of society. However, history is replete with examples where societies have been transformed through the belief that we can advance collectively to our goals by adopting a common plan, and by working towards it. Optimism is therefore the key to change and transformation while pessimism guards the hierarchy and status quo. As they say, excess of everything is bad, so is true for optimism and pessimism, which is why there is a concept of realism.

On 26 September, the Free Press Journal published a news article saying that “The renowned medical journal, Lancet, has cautioned India on the danger of presenting the current pandemic situation with too positive a spin. It not only clouds reality but also hampers vital public health initiatives.” The link can be found at https://www.freepressjournal.in/india/india-is-creating-a-false-optimism-reputed-medical-journal-lancet-on-indias-handling-of-the-pandemic.  Having carried out some forecasting for COVID-19 cases in April and May 2020, purely for academic joy, this news report intrigued me and motivated me to look up at the “THE LANCET” caution.

 “The LANCET” which began as an independent, international weekly general medical journal in 1823, claims to make science widely available so that medicine can serve, and transform society, and positively impact the lives of people.

People in general and decision makers around the world have a great regard for “The Lancet” which has over time evolved as a family of journals across various medical and health specialities.

“The LANCET” has captioned its editorial to Vol. 396, September 26, 2020, on p. 867 as “COVID-19 in India: the dangers of false optimism.”

First things first – this is an editorial opinion and not a piece of research. An editorial opinion is expressed with the purpose of influencing public opinion and public-policy and may not be taken as non-purposive or unbiased. While this editorial makes some palpable hits, it is hard to separate the wheat of philosophical wisdom from the chaff of prejudice.

Next – it is a well accepted cardinal principle that false optimism is fraught with peril. False pessimism is equally fraught with peril. If the fallacies of optimism are human universals, what is more corrupting is not the attempt to do the impossible, but the failure even to attempt it. Progressive changes, however, rarely happen by chance. History is a narrative of humans rationally and consciously transforming the world. To give up on “goal-directed policies and politics” is to give up possibilities of betterment.

The example of DG of ICMR envisaging launching a coronavirus vaccine on Aug 15, quoted by The LANCET, is surely an optimism of “unscrupulous” form, but questioning the lower case-fatality-rate in India because it is lower than the reported rate in other (western) countries is unscientific. In order to support such unscientific opinion, The LANCET goes on to suspect the entire COVID-19 data from India and suggests that this number is a political spin.

Case-fatality-rate is the ratio of deaths to cases; and its lower value would mean lower deaths for same number of cases. It could also be lower if the reported number of cases is higher for same number of deaths. What is The LANCET alleging – is India under-reporting deaths or over-reporting cases?

A scientific mind should question previous results in face of new data rather than the reliability of the new data unless one is sure that the previous data was more reliable than the new data. Data is the message and data-reports are brought by messengers; new data should lead to questioning of results, not the message.

Is this pessimism of some “unscrupulous” kind clouding the mindset of LANCET which is unwilling to accept that India might be making headway in war against COVID-19 leaving behind the expected leaders of any such success?

How would The LANCET react if one were to say that this editorial is a political spin against India’s success to protect the world’s perception of traditional western supremacy?

Is The LANCET advocating that, rather than seeking utopian solutions, radical alternatives or bold initiatives, India should muddle through with “compromise and half measures” mindful that no ultimate solutions are up for grabs?

Is The LANCET proposing for India to be “a community without convictions” marked by irony and subservience?

The LANCET is posturing as if it is exposing the blindness and the hypocrisies of the Indian politics, but its editors seem to be notorious for never acknowledging that there might be some too in the developed west. The LANCET’s editorial calling India’s COVID-19 numbers as ‘false optimism’ lacks logical or scientific reasoning and suffers from survivorship bias of quantitative back-testing using past indices.

I am neither a leftist nor a rightist. I hold no brief for India or its political class, but I do wish to raise my voice as a citizen of India, which has held on to traditions of conservative political philosophy but, which is unwilling to shut her eyes to continued propagation of western supremacy, who have tried to make heaven on earth, and ended up making it hell.

(First published 28 Sep 2020)

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Astrology and Medicine

When the going gets tough, the well-being begins to decline. People begin searching for ways to preserve their mental health outside of traditional or professional counselling and that is when they fall into astrology. Based on the day, time, and location of their birth and some Google-search, they craft their astrological chart and from there begins the researching on how planetary patterns impact day-to-day life.

In such testing times, the young easily fall into New Age trends, including employing astrology as a substitute for traditional counselling. At a time when healthcare is very expensive and organized religion is in disarray, reading horoscopes, receiving tarot readings, and practicing witchcraft can provide a cushion of stability for many.

Astrologer Acharya Vinod Kumar in an Instagram post has predicted that coronavirus will end in India between September and November. He goes on, “There are several reasons for the outbreak but most important of all is the collective karmic cycle that has finally caught up with the humanity. A return to “Satvik” lifestyle is advised & over consumption to be avoided or else Mother Nature knows how to settle the scores. Not just him, multiple other astrologers have predicted that the effects of coronavirus will cease to exist soon. “But fortunately, on March 30, Guru is leaving Ketu’s alliance and entering Capricorn. That means after March 30, we will all be free from the effects of the coronavirus. This will start from 2.58 pm on March 24 itself,” said Ashish Mehta. Another UAE-based astrologer, Acharya Sandeep Bhargava, also predicted that the pandemic will end this year globally by May 11. Upendra Shastri, another Dubai-based astrologer also claimed that things will have a positive turn from May onwards. (see https://www.deccanherald.com/national/when-will-coronavirus-end-in-india-and-across-globe-astrologers-prediction-815370.html)

When people are scared, confused, and want to feel safe, astrology is a great way to learn that the conflict will eventually pass. Outside of needing to have a smartphone and internet access, there are no real barriers to accessing astrology.

Astrology gives answers to people’s questions quickly, whereas mental healthcare is time-consuming and costly. So many people are obsessed with astrology because it is a cheap alternative to therapy that can, in some respects, guide their understanding of their health and their behaviour.

Astrology can, in some ways, explain what someone is feeling and why someone is feeling it. Being “diagnosed” as a Pisces with a Capricorn moon and Leo ascendant is more digestible for people sometimes than the deep unearthing of trauma that at times arises for them in traditional therapy.

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are overflowing with memes, posts and videos specifically about the planets. Many people describe themselves by way of their sun, moon, and rising signs, a language they have learned on the internet and are now bringing to bear in real-life interactions.

Astrology provides a great framework for exploring topics like love, familial roles, sex, friendships, grief, the positions we consistently put ourselves in, the ways we cope in times of stress, and so much more.

While many Indians have believed in Astrology for ages, a 2017 Pew Research Study found that nearly 30 percent of adults in the United States believe in astrology. Yet there is still plenty of criticism lobbed at this tool for self-understanding and reflection both in India and the US.

Many people at some point in their lives have relied heavily on astrology to assess and improve their mental and emotional functioning. Those who have not done it so far may do it sometime in future. Many lean into the soft form of relief astrology provides.

The most interesting thing about astrology is that it is related to Medicine in all the three kinds of associations – complementary, supplementary and substitute.

As the illness increases, people who use more of medical services may simultaneously use astrological services to complement the therapy or even supplement the therapy. Astrological services can serve as substitute to medical services when people begin to look for alternative choices.

 

(First published 06 April 2020)

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RAHUL SAVARKAR

A great advantage of history for politicians is that most of the participants are dead, and while immortal as symbols, can speak only through the tongues of present day interpreters.

There are two components central to the rhetorical construction of nationhood: identity and history. Both are highly interrelated in that one arguably cannot be invoked without the other in defining a nation and its people. History provides understandings about boundaries, content, and prototypes of the national category and therefore is an essential ingredient in the construction of nationhood and national identity. This is because history can be descriptive in that it can provide a people with an understanding of their origins and identity.

On the other hand, through the use of selective account of past events and concentrated efforts to utilise this as a cohesive mobilising factor, history can be prescriptive by instilling a frame of reference for the future. The descriptive and prescriptive elements of history are embodied in historical charters, or foundational myths, that serve as warrants for social and political arrangements in the present and future. While there generally tends to be consensus about the episodes, events, and figures that are important in the history of a nation, their meaning and relevance for present states of affairs are often contested.

This allows politicians to represent the historical trajectory of a nation and its people in a story-like structure that legitimises lessons for the present and future by establishing temporal continuity with its past. Like the boundaries, content, and prototypes of social categories, historical charters can be invoked to legitimise, i.e., confirm, the validity of the agendas mobilised by politicians.

British India was divided into Muslim Pakistan and Secular (?) India. The partition witnessed large scale mass migration of 12-14 million people; the killing of over one million people; sexual abuse of an estimated 100,000 women, and serves as a powerful illustration of the devastating consequences that the production and contestation of nationhood can have for human life.

As a logical consequence of the fact that Pakistan had been founded as a Muslim nation, the partition came to vindicate the view that India was a Hindu nation for Hindu nationalists. The Indian Identity, “Who is an Indian?” is being mobilised through History but even the History is being mobilised through identity.

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Has TRAI failed the Consumer?

An active competition and rivalry in business is, undoubtedly, conducive to the public welfare, but neither the regulators nor the customers should ignore the fact that competition may be carried to such an extent as to accomplish the financial ruin of those engaged therein and thus result in a derangement of the business, an inconvenience to the consumers, and in public harm.

A price cutter is usually a financially strong player, who makes up his losses of profits on cut-prices either by the number of his sales or by extra profits on other sales to the consumer under the decoy of the cut-price upon one or a few items. The regular player cannot meet such competition and is driven out of business. That which is, properly speaking, “competition” in business, is thereby strangled and the only competition which is promoted is that of the particular branded article against itself.

Fixing and maintaining of a fair price above cost is a commercial necessity; and any other course must end in bankruptcy. When that price is so unreasonably lowered as to drive others out of the business, with a view of stifling competition, not only is that wronged competitor individually injured, but the public is prejudiced by the stifling of competition. Thereafter the market leader begins to extract the costs of buying market share and snuffing out competition from the purchasing public by unreasonably raising the price.

It is a mere truism to say that Jio is responsible for bringing call costs way down in the mobile telecom market. 21-years after the launch of mobile telephone in India, entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited into the mobile telephony market as a late-entrant in 2016, and then racking-up a price-based competition has not been in overall interest of the consumer. The consumer received some price advantage through predatory pricing by Jio, but concurrently suffered falling service-quality around call-drops and service disruptions. Jio promised free unlimited calls and texts, as well as affordable data at the time of its launch in September 2016 and became India’s biggest telecom company with over 355 million subscribers at the end of September 2019.  Jio did not earn but bought market share.

On October 9, Reliance Jio announced that it would start charging users 6 paise per minute for outgoing calls to other operators. This is clearly against the operator’s promise of free unlimited calls and texts and Jio hadn’t said that the deal was subject to business dynamics.

One of the main objectives of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is to provide a fair and transparent policy environment which promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition. The strangling of competitors by price-cutting is not “competition” but TRAI doesn’t seem to know it.

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Great Indian Political Bazaar: Battle for People’s Mind

Religion played the biggest role in the creation of two independent states, India and Pakistan, former around the ethos of ‘secular’ nationalism while later advocating the idea of ‘religious’ nationalism.

Secularism has only a binary – “neutral” versus “religious.” Congress took the position of “neutrality” and successfully positioned Jinnah’s Muslim League as “religious” thereby claiming the majority support of the Hindus, who by default are, the most-secular people in the world; having never despised anyone’s alternative religion or God.

Sanjay Gandhi had run the most blatant anti-Muslim political and administrative agenda during the internal emergency era of 1975-77.  This had alienated the Muslims from the Congress completely. To, Congress started adopting the process of minority appeasement as a way to woo them back and convert them into a captive vote-bank of the party. Thus Congress tried to position its biggest political rival, BJP, as “religious (Hindu)” nationalist party taking for itself the position of “secular” nationalist party.

Wearing the mask of ‘secular’ nationalism, Congress perpetuated a narrative of ‘religious’ nationalism as the ethos of the BJP (erstwhile “Jansangh”). This was an exact replay of its pre-independence strategy wherein Congress had tried to position, albeit successfully, itself as a “secular” nationalist party leading to Muslim League, then its biggest political rival, getting positioned as “religious (Muslim)” nationalist party.

Their strategy fired back this time.

In trying to attribute “non-secular” credentials to Hindu majority, whose support, Congress had earlier gathered successfully, during the pre-independence era by attributing “secular” credentials to them, was a letdown for the Hindus, who rightly felt cheated by the Congress.

Hindus saw through the game of Congress for whom, Jinnah’s Muslim minority was ‘religious’ and Gandhi-Nehru’s Hindu Majority was ‘secular’ until independence. But after independence, the same Hindu Majority became ‘non-secular’ and the left-over Muslim Minority became ‘secular.’ Playing this game, Congress has ended up creating problems and setbacks to the very existence of Muslims within an ever ‘secular’ India.

Notwithstanding the massive grass-root and ground-level effort put in by them, quite a lot of support came to BJP as rejection to Congress. Because people hated the new strategy of minority-appeasement of Congress, the party started accusing BJP of ‘politics of hate.’ Such accusations alienated the secular Hindus still more from the Congress.

Through its own folly, Congress has ended up taking the positioning of “religious (Muslim)” party, in the mind of the citizens, a positioning that was vacated by the Muslim-League after independence. In this transition of Congress from “secular” to “religious” the yawning void which was left behind is now occupied by the BJP.

History is repeating. Congress had evicted Muslim-League from the Indian political arena, using its majority support, the collateral damage being in the form of partition of India.

Congress may be well-advised to rethink its strategy before the BJP evicts it from the bazaar of politics, using its majority-support. BJP and its supporters must be cautious of any similar collateral damages and ensure that no division of India happens ever again.

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Mask of an Indian Political Identity

What is the distinctiveness of Indian politics and the political individuality of an Indian; similar to Democrats and Republicans in the US or the Conservative and the Labour party in the UK? The crisis of this missing identity is rooted in a sharp disconnect between high aspirations and low endeavour made by the people. On one side, people take on combative posture to express their thirst for change, while on the other; they are arrogant and hell-bent on hanging on to personal status quo.

India is an ideological regime reflected in her official characterisation – SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. India calls herself a “republic” but renders the term ambiguous through modifiers. A “republic” is “sovereign” and a “republic” is “democratic.” The double-barrel modifier “sovereign-secular” renders the term “democratic-republic” meaningless. The term “socialist” makes India an ideology-based regime. The pretension behind all these labels is that rather than being the art of solving the problems of people, politics is a means of advancing the real or imagined goals of an ideology.

Political identity of India is based in synthetic myths of recent coinage. From being a SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC in 1950, India changed to SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC through the 42nd amendment to the Constitution made in 1976. This genesis for this change lies in the period of “Internal Emergency” when the Constitution of India was suspended and held hostage to the autocratic rule of late Mrs Indira Gandhi. The change was made during the democratic vacuum left with all the political leaders imprisoned, a space the Communist Party of India filled with little difficulty.

Unlike classical revolutions that witness genuine and often prolonged conflict between opposing ideologies, the Indian revolution making a transition from SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC to SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC happened so quickly and so easily as to deprive even its leaders from the possibility of creating a revolutionary biography for themselves.

Another thing the Indian regimes had is that they did not depend on income from taxation, and therefore they could regard their people as expensive and bothersome extras. Further, India is the founder of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement. NAM was established in 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia through an initiative of the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito. In such context India had retained some memory of the Cold War as regime sympathetic to the Soviet bloc and opposed to the so-called Free World led by the United States. The umbrella term for the NAM hodgepodge is “Third Worldism,” which means presenting Western democracies as enemies while trying to benefit from the economic, social and cultural possibilities they offer.

The successive Congress regimes had hated the American “Great Satan” but the Congress leaders sent their children to the US for study and their old ones for medical treatment. Many top leaders and officials of the Indian Republic have their money, often ill-gotten, laundered through Swiss banks and hold properties in the UK.

Indian regimes have created a rent-seekers class – people who live from the rents they charge, rather than from labour – whose chief function is to provide at least the illusion of a popular base for them as the inheritors of Gandhi legacy and as “family of martyrs.”

Indian regimes have failed to develop credible and enduring institutions capable of arbitrating conflicts and clashes of ideas and interests inherent in every human society. This is why the outcome of India’s current crises depends on the confrontation between the “chowkidaars” and the “country-fathers.”

That is what happens to what one might call “short-term” socio-political systems from the Nehruvian India (Non-aligned magnanimity) to the Shastri’s India (Jai Jawan Jai KIsan); from Indira’s India (Garibi Hatao, Indira Lao-Desh Bachao) to Morarji’s India (Ek Sherni, Sau Langur, Chikmagalur, chik….); from Rajiv’s India (Jab tak sooraj Chand rahega, Indira tera naam rahegaa) to VP Singh’s India (Gali gali mein shor hai..) and so on.  All such “short-term” identities end in a span of time that must be regarded as brief in broader historic terms. In them, everything is intense, everything including the inevitable fall.

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Wellness – how a whole new business was created?

America, for decades, has been gripped by a deep-seated fear of fat, and that fear has spread to India. But the current American thinking about weight—and the belief that people need to control it by eating “clean,” home-cooked, restrictive meals—originates from a less glamorous but far more influential group of people: The mostly white, mostly male, mostly thin food writers and chefs who have been setting the agenda of what they call the “good food movement” for the past couple of decades. And in the process, they’ve turned being thin—and eating in the way they think guarantees thinness—into a moral imperative.

Being wise, wealthy and healthy was the imperative but being thin was made a fad and becoming thin through dieting was made a fashion. Under the opportunity-grabbing business managers, dieting was re-branded into wellness and cosmetic looks started connoting health. The willpower-weight myth turned eating—an activity that, at its core, should provide comfort just as much as nutrition—into a contest of self-discipline and deprivation.

Away from Medical and Health-care business, a new Wellness business was manufactured – slowly encompassing and expanding into health foods, organic foods, low cal foods, food supplements, home weighing scales, gyms, body-sculpting, and the list is endless.

Research shows that changing our body size by changing our diet is virtually impossible: No matter what the plan is, and no matter how much ‘Lauki’ juice is involved, dieters lose at most just 5 to 10 percent of their body weight in the first six months. Most then regain that weight, and then some, within one to five years.

There is this rise of wellness culture in which the diet industry strives to disconnect us from our body’s innate hunger and fullness cues. It is a revelation to exactly nobody that a thin man can eat whatever he wants and not hear anything beyond some gentle “you are damn lucky, you can eat anything!” In contrast, people — especially if they’re middle-aged —experience weight stigma much more frequently than others. We can’t “just eat whatever we want” because we are continuously being reminded to view our bodies as unruly, undisciplined, and in need of constant vigilance. And so we boil cabbage for soup, cut out carbohydrates – especially wheat and rice, and start diets because we long ago internalized that it is wrong to be hungry for whatever we’re really hungry for.

In fact, normal, healthy bodies come in many shapes and sizes beyond the narrow spectrum of ‘Thin Guys and gals.’ And diets don’t fail because we lack the willpower; they fail because our bodies evolved to prevent weight loss as a protective measure. When our body senses that caloric or macro-nutrient restriction is afoot, it responds by slowing our metabolism to conserve resources and stimulating hunger hormones that remind us to eat. This has helped humans withstand eons of food scarcity; it is, admittedly, less helpful when we are hoping to maintain the results of our ‘Karela-juice’ detox past winters. But that is a good thing, because we also know that attempting weight loss repeatedly is bad for our health. According to research published in the International Journal of Obesity, women who lost at least 5 kilos three or more times within a four-year period were more likely to struggle with binge eating and get less physical activity than non-dieters.

Many Indians believe or are made to believe that losing weight is a matter of individual responsibility. This is currently fuelling a different kind of epidemic. Recent studies estimate that 50 percent of teenage girls and 25 percent of teenage boys are on diets. One study found that 1 in 8 girls had voluntarily made her to vomit within the previous three months. The rate of eating disorders in adolescents now outstrips their rate of type 2 diabetes. Restriction makes us sick. Today’s food environment has become judgmental.

Grains, beans and rice are perfectly fine foods. There’s no acknowledgement that some of us just don’t like beans that much. Or that some of us are eating plenty of rice and beans but are nevertheless still fat. It seems that some people—thin people—must have seen the light that the rest are blind to. We need to talk more about how many of the food rules come from people who will never have our bodies or wrestle with our cultural expectations—people who might have set out to make the planet healthier, but instead helped normalise dangerous and dysfunctional thinking about “good foods,” “bad foods,” and the moral value of the people who eat them.

For some amongst us who are so much conditioned into watching what they eat, here are some facts on nutrition and health:

  • The Japanese eat very little fat – and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Americans.
  • The Mexicans eat a lot of fat – and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Americans.
  • The Chinese drink very little red wine – and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Americans.
  • The Italians drink a lot of red wine – and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Americans.
  • The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats – and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Americans.

We need to change such conversation which makes us feel moral sinners and cheaters for the guilt of eating. And eat what we damn well please.

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Advertising to children in the schools

Children in India spent more than Rs 220 Billion, given to them as pocket money during 2016. This amount was more than the GDP of 52 small countries which included Maldives and Bhutan.  Cartoon channel Pogo had conducted a survey on the pocket money of the kids in the country. The ‘Turner New Generation 2016’  study was conducted in all major cities and also places with more than 1 lakh population. This study had covered 6,690 respondents, including 7-14 year kids and parents of 4-14.

As per this study, 52% of the kids were receiving pocket money. The average pocket money received by the kids was Rs. 555/- per month. This amount had doubled over the last four years since a similar survey conducted by Pogo in 2012 had estimated the average pocket money of kids at Rs. 275/- per month then.  (https://www.financialexpress.com/economy/pocket-money-of-kids-in-india-more-than-gdp-of-52-countries-says-pogo-study/757331/ )

These children were not only buying products as toys, clothes, candy, and snacks but also saving up for big ticket purchases.  Children were found influencing the purchases made by their parents for microwave ovens (57%), washing machines (58%), refrigerators (62%), televisions (68%), mobiles (64%), cars (66%) and even the choices of travel destinations (78%); which may add up to at least Rs. 3000 Billion in parental purchases. 71 percent children had personal mobiles as well as other electronic gadgets with them. (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/wealth/spend/kids-pocket-money-up-100-since-2012-turner-international-india-study/articleshow/53238075.cms)

Children are buyers themselves, they are major influencers of their parents’ purchases, and they are future adult consumers. As future adults, children are potential consumers for all goods and services. Children therefore attract many advertisers.

During the last 50 years, Indian children got their own foods/snacks and clothing brands and such high-ticket items as video games and other high-tech products besides dedicated TV networks.

New advertising strategies aimed at children steadily proliferate. Linking their products to educational goals, advertisers have reached into the schools by sponsoring such activities as literacy programmes, reading projects, anti-drug campaigns, and communication skills training, while rewarding students for good performance with coupons for products and free meals. In-school advertising and examples of in-school commercialism can be put into four categories:

  1. In-school ads that can be seen on hoardings, on school buses, on scoreboards, and in school galleries. In-school ads include ads on book covers. Advertising is also found in product coupons and in give-aways that are distributed in schools.
  2. Ads in classroom materials include any commercial messages in printed materials or video programming used in school.
  3. Sponsored educational materials include free or low-cost items which can be used for instruction. These teaching aids may take the form of multimedia teaching kits, CDs/DVDs, software, books, posters, reproducible activity sheets, and workbooks.
  4. Contests and incentive programs bring brand names into the schools along with the promise of such rewards as free pizzas, cash, and points toward buying educational equipment, or trips and other prizes.

Although some educators defend the use of commercially produced materials as a way of providing useful supplements to the curriculum or as a way of raising funds and building needed bridges to businesses, other educators oppose it, fearing that market values may, for the most part, take the place of democratic values in the schools. Those who defend the trend argue that commercialism is highly prevalent throughout our society and a bit more advertising in the schools should not adversely affect students. On the other hand, many educators do not want to participate in offering up students as a captive audience.

In dealing with the issues of in-school commercialism, a three-pronged approach may be considered:

  1. Reviewing all sponsored materials and activities and holding them to the same standards as other curriculum items.
  2. Pursuing non-commercial partnerships with businesses and rejecting the notion that it is ethical to bring advertising into the schools to provide materials or funds to bolster dwindling budgets.
  3. Beginning the teaching of media literacy in elementary school, to help educate children to be critical readers of advertising, propaganda, and other mass-mediated messages, while helping them gain the skills to be intelligent, aware consumers.

With the expanding presence of advertising targeted to younger and younger children, schools have become involved in serving up students as captive audiences to advertisers. It is time to pause and reflect on the appropriateness of various kinds of connections between businesses and schools, and the influence those connections might have on the integrity of education in a democracy. Although traditionally there have been links between business and education in this country, commercialism in schools has recently skyrocketed. The overall goal of collaboration between businesses and schools should be for business leaders, educators, parents, and government officials to work together “…to embrace practical, responsible approaches that will protect the educational integrity of our school systems.

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