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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BABU-isation of India

My learning and experience makes me believe that the officers from the Indian Administrative Services do not have the wisdom it takes to make India succeed. IAS personnel are good at rationalising and articulating any and every point-of-view or governmental action, but they do not know how things work which would make India great.

I have nothing against bureaucratic administrative machinery. However, induction into the IAS itself does not automatically give the wisdom to be an effective leader. Their training and experience makes IAS very familiar with “how things work and have worked in the government.” They however have no idea about “how things ought to work instead of how they have worked in the government” to unshackle Indian potential.  IAS often parachute into formulating a policy and implementing it without knowing “how to change the work ethics and work-culture.” By training and grooming, most IAS lack innovation skills and risk-appetite. People in the top echelons of Indian government are predominantly IAS, who do not spend enough time on process-improvement and fail to give citizens what they really want and deserve. They spend more time on attending and chairing meetings or protecting the steel frame of bureaucratic processes; but much less time in connecting with the citizens, whom they govern.

Right from the selection and training to job-rotation, IAS are well trained into all sorts of things necessary to preserve and protect the structure and the system. In 16-years since their induction into the IAS, when they are empanelled for being Joint-secretaries in the Government, most of them have been through eight different experiences of about 2-years each. Such experiences do not provide any domain experience except training them in ways to protect and preserve the systemic and structural frameworks of varying designs. Their superb training is no substitute for knowledge, acumen and wisdom, which is so essential for paving and leading on strategic paths for change.

The IAS has long had its critics. Most politicians have criticised IAS in the past but when in government, they have found IAS to be their biggest support systems. Governing for nation building requires competencies in envisioning, planning, executing and controlling. IAS are competent in executing and controlling within the boundaries of the existing frameworks and thus make up the essential half of governance. When it comes to envisioning and planning, the competencies are about disrupting the status-quo and the IAS are uncomfortable there. While accelerating the growth is not possible without envisioning and planning that is different from the past, IAS can provide the necessary counterweight to the politicians forcing dangerously radical policies upon us. If the counterweight were to exceed the extent of departure from the benign paths followed in the past, there will be no new growth trajectories. Those would be circumstances of growth in spite of governance and despite of governance, as if there were no governance.

PM Modi, recently, while speaking in the Parliament, had remarked, “Sab kuch BABU hi karenege. IAS ban gaye matlab woh fertilizer ka kaarkhana bhi chalayega. Yeh kaun si badi takat bana kar rakh di humne? BABUon ke haath mein desh de karke hum kya karne waale hain?”

Was PM Modi insulting the IAS? I do not think so.  I think he was sharing his impression and experience. Modi is very balanced in his outpourings even when he is angry. PM Modi has worked with the IAS for 20-years now and surely he has seen and worked with not just a few but many of them.  It was no outburst in the Parliament and his use of the expression ‘BABU’ for the IAS was not to belittle the IAS but to present them on a more real plank rather than ‘on-a-pedestal’ projection, which the IAS have been making of themselves. Some in the IAS will surely be feeling hurt thinking that ‘BABU’ is a derogatory expression.

Let us keep the emotions aside and examine the statement is terms of reality. Bureaucratic structures are like a nest in which the future progeny is protected and nurtured. IAS are only the twigs. The twigs that make up the nest have to hold together so that the nest holds and protects the eggs and the young ones from vagaries of nature. The twigs themselves cannot decide the design of the nest or the place of perching the nest or fight the predators. IAS are like twigs of nest to home and nurture progeny of nation called India.  BABU has been a historical nomenclature for jobs of custodians of organisational memory and customs.

Wisdom is not restricted to IAS. In fact, politicians, especially those in power, are wiser and more experienced than the IAS, in guiding the course of national growth while keeping a finger on the pulse of the citizens. PM Modi has been selective in his use of IAS for “doing the job” necessary for implementing his strategy for India. He has had unsupportive experts who were in “positions of doing” due to political patronage and such experts were unable to overcome their sense of subservience to their political benefactors. When he found that the expert with international credibility and from across the Atlantic as RBI governor was unable to deliver, he replaced him with a homeland expert. Seeing this expert also faltering, he brought in an IAS BABU as RBI Governor, not so much for strategic direction but for protecting the steel frame. Similar things happened when he had to replace an expert, experienced in the insurance sector by an IAS BABU as Chairman, Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA). Former IAS succeed in such roles because others from their fraternity in the government would not let them fail.

IAS are better than most non-IAS in “doing the job” but exceptions apart, most IAS are not competent at “designing the job.” Reciprocal exceptions exist among non-IAS. Like any generalisation, exceptions exist to this one too.

When PM Modi says, “Country has been handed over to BABUs” he is saying that the BABUs are in jobs where they need not be and that people should fit the boots rather than “any IAS would do in any boot” approach.

IAS (rather ICS) used to be something that really helped the British crown stand out. The British had no illusions of building India. Now that elite clique is more like a small crowd utterly for self-preservation by maintaining the legacy systems and structures. When it comes to success in any vision for nation building, an IAS is optional.

We do not see a lot of IAS as Governmental Leaders. The IAS tend to be hired for the Governmental Leaders and by the Governmental Leaders.

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First published 16 March 2021

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Neither a MODI-BHAKT nor a FAMILY-LOYALIST

Loyalty is behaviour in which one stays firm in one’s friendship or support for someone or something. Loyalties are feelings of friendship, support, allegiance or duty.

I am loyal to my country and to my family. I neither need nor seek anyone’s certification for my loyalty.

BHAKTI literally means “attachment, state of mind where the devotees surrender himself or herself unquestioningly to God.

Bhakti in Indian culture is “emotional devotion” particularly to a personal God or to spiritual ideas. Thus, bhakti requires a relationship between the devotee and the deity. The term also refers to a movement, pioneered by Alvars and Nayanars, which developed around the gods Vishnu (Vaishnavism), Brahma (Brahmanism), Shiva (Shaivism) and Devi (Shaktism) in the second half of the 1st millennium CE. The union of the human soul with a supreme God, man’s love and devotion for God are some of the concepts, which were dwelt upon by the saints. In ancient texts, such as the SHVETASHVATARA UPANISHAD, the term simply means participation, devotion and love for any endeavour, while in the BHAGAVAD GITA; it connotes ‘Bhakti Marg’ one of the possible paths of spirituality and towards moksha.

Bhakti is also found in other religions practiced in India. Nirguni bhakti (devotion to the divine without attributes) is found in Sikhism, as well as Hinduism. Outside India, emotional devotion is found in some Southeast Asian and East Asian Buddhist traditions. 

It grew rapidly in India after the 12th century in the various Hindu traditions, possibly in response to the arrival of Islam in India.

Loyalty other than the loyalty to one’s country and one’s family is slavery; slavery enforced upon someone or accepted by someone due to that one’s weakness. Loyalty is otherwise a trait found in some animals. Such loyalty in those animals is appreciated and acknowledged. Dogs are thought to be the most loyal to their MASTERS. Horses are also loyal to their MASTERS. The expression MASTERS is not about ownership; it is more akin to as in RINGMASTER in a circus.

I do not intend to make judgments about my friends or strangers, many of whom are completely at ease being a MODI-BHAKT or a GANDHI-NEHRU-FAMILY-LOYALIST. I merely wish to say that BHAKTI and LOYALTY are not the two poles of the same characteristic but two entirely different characteristics.

For me, Loyalty to my country comes first, followed by loyalty to my family. Then comes Bhakti to my God and religion. All other kinds of Loyalty and Bhakti is redundant and a mere reflection of my weaknesses. A caveat though, all other kinds of loyalty or Bhakti to any other being or any other object is the same thing.

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First published 17 Feb 2021

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My take on NEP 2020

It is the irrationality in us, which makes us human beings. A completely rational human being is analogous to a computer.

There is more to human irrationality, as so brightly and rationally espoused by an Israeli-American professor Dan Ariely, the author of the three New York Times best sellers ‘Predictably Irrational’, ‘The Upside of Irrationality’, and ‘The Honest Truth about Dishonesty’.

Wisdom is the rationality of anticipating, comprehending and dealing with irrationality. Telling and teaching Wisdom, Intelligence and Acumen is not possible. Educators, coaches, psychotherapists and mentors can play a significant role, by assisting with the dissemination of knowledge and helping those searching for wisdom and acumen through challenging experiences and encouraging them to work on emotional awareness, emotional self-regulation, relational skills and mindfulness. Becoming wise is a very personal quest. It is only through our own experiences, learning how to cope with the major tragedies and dilemmas embedded within life’s journey, that we would discover our own capacities and learn how to create wisdom.

cocktail

Literacy is about information and knowledge, both of which can be delivered and acquired thorough formal and informal mechanisms of delivery. The mechanism of teaching in the process of educations is limited to delivery of information and knowledge.

Data is the simplest and the fundamental smallest unit that builds information. Data is natural truth. Data is like fundamental sub-atomic particles, electrons, protons and neutrons, which can build different information-elements. Forces of nature or the hand of divine builds elements out of electrons, protons and neutrons. On the other hand, living beings gather data, and build Information using such data. Obviously, information is coloured by the ability and the intent of the living being, leading to questions of objectivity.

Human beings aggregate information and encapsulate it into knowledge. They attempt to create capsules of uniform acceptance and applications, going up the ladder of conjectures, hypothesis, testing & validation, theory building and enunciation of principle. Each step up the ladder generates new information.

There are instances where the conjectures could be so powerful that one directly jumps to theory building and enunciation of principle stages and leaves it for others, to go down the ladder, at some later stage and verify the theory and the principle. Such a later day exercise, may validate, discard, or modify the existing theory and/or principle. Each step down the ladder also generates new information.

know

How is it that some people are able to skip the steps of climbing up the ladder and straightway reach the ‘theory building’ and ‘enunciation of principle’ steps? This is a human capability called Intelligence. It is the ability to perceive the missing information through a cocktail of intuition, anticipation, foresight, hindsight and wisdom to complete the larger picture. As if there were some missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, intelligence allows the solution of the puzzle without waiting to gather the missing pieces. Others, who wish to validate, discard, or modify such a solution to the puzzle, go searching for the missing pieces. If the pieces so found fit the gaps, and the emerging picture is the same as the solution that was previously advanced, the theory or the principle is validated. If they do not fit the gaps, either the solution is discarded or new search for the missing pieces commences. If the pieces found fit the gaps, and the emerging picture turns out to be different, the solution is accordingly modified. All such steps and processes generate further information.

While delivery of literacy and knowledge is an ingredient of teaching process, even upon successful delivery, we may have unsatisfactory results. Keenness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a situation in a manner that is likely to lead to a good outcome refers to acumen. Acumen shows up as the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions. Not every literate has the acumen and the wisdom, two critical essentials for success. To that extent, the education remains incomplete.

The Indian government approved a National Education Policy or NEP 2020 in July 2020, making way for large-scale transformational reforms including restructuring the higher education system. NEP 2020, a blueprint for the development of education over the next 10 years, proposes a departure from the current top-down system to allow considerable autonomy to institutions.

This is the latest, and seemingly, one of the most elaborate, of an endless series of official reports and programmes aimed at improving higher education in the post-independence period. These documents, the first of which was the Radhakrishnan Commission of 1949, continuing with the national education policies of 1968 and 1986, the Yashpal Committee of 2009, the National Knowledge Commission in 2007, and most recently the draft NEP of 2019, have all said the same thing. They have all pointed towards inadequacy of funding, drawn focus to expansion in access and enrolments and the need for structural reforms. The needs have always been clear and have been articulated by earlier commissions and committees.

The fixation on success of delivery of education in terms of increase in enrolments and increase in degree completion rates is as loud as the lack of focus on the success of a learner in his life, as a citizen and as a member of the society.

In all spheres of life, education is an indicator of the potential for success; its opposite, ignorance; or worse, indoctrination in falsehoods, is an indicator of potential failure. Education has to ensure acquisition of acumen and wisdom, teaching of which is not possible. Clearly therefore, Education is more than teaching, it is teaching for learning. Education, which only teaches but does not facilitate and ensure learning is an enormous waste of time, effort and resources.

Education has to deliver ‘literacy and knowledge’ and enable the acquisition of ‘acumen and ‘wisdom.’ An ideal tool would be to put learners into an ambiguous situation and guide them find the underlying cause of it. Repeatedly dealing with dissimilarities of ambiguity and diversity of situations would facilitate the purpose of education.

In our policy, are we focusing on more people that are qualified rather than more people who are successful, success measured in terms of their standards of living and the quality of life they get to lead?

Lack of attention to Pedagogics for Wisdom, Acumen and Literacy in all the Education Policy documents including NEP 2020 unfortunately is not even a matter of concern or debate in any public discourse.

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First published 04 January 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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Online Teaching exposes the Inequality between the Rich and the Poor

While moving lessons online may appear to offer the advantage of greater accessibility, that only applies to the people who can get online and COVID-19 has highlighted the depth of the digital divide and how complex and multi-layered that is. Online education may not be the most inclusive solution. Lack of supervision in on-line learning means the results for those relying on online lessons will vary depending on the home environment.

It is not just the divide between those who do and do not have access to the internet, but those who are and are not digitally-literate.

This might not seem to be such a big issue for the urban areas but it is a gigantic problem in the less urban and more rural areas of India.  School as an institution is more than just a site for formal education for the most vulnerable. It is a place where they can get health and food. The impact of COVID-19 on primary and secondary education has not only exposed the existing gap between the richer and poorer learners but has shown that this gap is likely to increase with every passing day.

In the case of higher education, colleges and universities have persistently relied on a classical Campus-Centric-Model. Simply put students and the faculty must converge to a central location where they engage with each other in classroom-based learning activities with libraries and related support services. The hosting campus may also provide housing, food, health and other support services. In recent decades, an increasing range of non-teaching services designed to attract and retain students has been introduced through big investments. Institutions have attempted to deliver a combined package which has included – instruction, support services and experience – in exchange for tuition and fees.

Over the years, remote learning platforms, correspondence courses, instructional television and, more recently, the move to online education have tended to be minor appendages at most institutions of higher education. Only handfuls have operated both in-person and significant online platforms targeting different market segments. Such a model has been remarkably resilient in responding to external challenges.

However, the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020 has put this Campus-Centric-Model under stress as never before. Campus classes were moved to online platforms as institutions closed abruptly in March. Courses and faculty conferences, career counselling and related support services were fully delivered online. Rather than serving a few non-residents with under-scaled remote formats, online learning courses were hastily cobbled together by ill-prepared faculty and staff. Despite the good intentions in responding to the pandemic’s assaults, the response did not go well.

As of date, the primary and secondary school-education has commenced entirely in the on-line mode. Very many government schools have not been able to offer online lessons in the absence of both hard and soft infrastructure. In case of higher education, most universities have deferred the start of the new academic year. In case of higher technical education, the on-going lessons have been fully moved to on-line model. With the exception of some premier management institutes the fresh students entering technical higher education have yet to start their lessons and the new academic year in any mode.

For the academic year 2020-21, it is uncertain, as to what proportions of institutions of higher education are committed to – entirely and primarily in-person instruction; entirely and primarily online instruction, mixed models of in-person and online instruction and those which remain undecided to their ‘open or close’ dilemma. Full online instruction will minimise or eliminate revenue streams, including room and board, plus all other non-instruction activities that comprise the campus experience. Full online instruction is a poor substitute for a rich residential experience. Students will be the first to demand refunds.

Lack of connectivity is going to be a critical question facing the post-COVID-19 India. Estimates show that more than 50% of students in India, from childhood to university, don’t have access to the internet at all. Teachers also need supporting as they need to move from traditional classrooms to virtual ones. The quality of education delivered digitally is being questioned in a number of countries.

Post-COVID India can expect the inequality in education to widen between different social classes.

(First published 21 Sept 2020)

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Disarray in the Congress: Just a Prognosis

From a strategic perspective, the legacy, knowledge and headship is the bedrock source of competitive advantage with strategic importance to a political party. However, managing these critical resources is more difficult than expected.

As pointed out by Pendleton Herring in his volume “Politics of Democracy” (1940: Rinehart & Company Inc. New York) the organization of a party is spread over three concentric rings. The centre ring represents the oligarchy in control of the party organization—what is called the High Command. There are associated with it, its workers who are primarily concerned with securing their livelihood through the party organization whether as party officials or through public office. They are called professional politicians and constitute the party machine. Surrounding this inner group, the High Command and the party machine, there is a large circle of persons bound to the party by ties of tradition and emotional loyalty. They think of the principles professed by the party. They are more concerned with its ideals and symbols than with the acts of the professional party workers and leaders. They vote for the party ideal rather than for the party record.

Outside this second ring lies that vast body of people who are not attached to any party. It is a floating population. The reason for their being unattached is either because they are aimless, thoughtless or because they have particular interests which are not included in the platform of any party. Those outside the second ring constitute the most vital field of action for a political party. They are the prize which a party must capture. To capture this prize it is not enough to enunciate principles and formulate policies. Men are not interested in principles and policies. But they are interested in accomplishing things. What is necessary for a party is to bring about concerted action.

Applying the framework from one of my old research from 2003, there are three progressively complex types of peripheries – COURSE, CONCEPT and CONDUCT – existing between the rings. (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-7908-2662-3_13 – Unedited pre-conference submission is available at https://emnet.univie.ac.at/emnet-2003/conference-proceedings/ which is also mirrored at https://studylib.net/doc/8500978/mukul-p.-gupta ).

There are clearly two groups spearheading the Programmes of the Congress party:

1) High command – handling the development of the programme and its implementation,

2) The Party Machine – connecting with party loyalists for and behalf of the party to propagate the party programmes and achieve party goals.

The overall political process is to drawn up by high-command and is to be followed by all the groups (course); the political definition and drivers (concept); and the linkages between the high-command and the party machine and the party-loyalists that determine the outcome of the process (conduct).

Each of the three components, Course, Concept and Conduct, which make up the complete political system functionally by integrating the two participating groups don’t create a seamless system. Rather, there are peripheries that need to be overcome. These peripheries have varying levels of complexity.

Peripheries are inescapable because of the hierarchical and functional specialisation of the two groups. Additionally, since all inputs to the political system cannot be known in advance, these peripheries are dynamic and the collective capabilities of the two groups would produce the final political results based on on-going inputs from these groups that keep changing throughout the process. For example, if the high-command proposes to attack the credibility of the incumbent PM, it will have to assess the impact of such attack on the party-loyalists. The party machine will have to assess the role of this narrative and see how it fits with voters’ expectations especially in light of the competitive reactions from BJP and other political parties. The dynamic nature of the different requirements between and dependencies among the two groups brings into focus the complexity of relationships at the periphery.

To talk meaningfully about the complexity at periphery and the challenge of managing relationships across them, it is useful to identify two properties of a periphery – Variance and Reliance.

VARIANCE at the periphery arises from variation in the type of skills and backgrounds or amount of experience between individuals or groups. If there is no variance between individuals or groups then the periphery is not a consequential one.

Within the Congress party, the variance arises from variation in formal education, training, past experience and types of methods used by the high-command and the party-machinery.

The second property of a periphery is RELIANCE. Reliance is a relation that exists between individuals or groups. If there is no reliance between individuals or groups that are different then there is no consequential periphery. For example, the reliance between high-command and party-machinery comes with the recognition that loss of credibility of the incumbent PM will create the need for change of a narrative about ‘corruption in congress leadership’ because the BJP would similar to Congress and thus trigger a new set of voter expectations. This will in turn fetch reaction from the other political parties. But the party-machinery has not known any political plan where it promotes any specific narratives provided by the high-command group and doesn’t have the freedom to create any new narratives of its choice. It could therefore be a political opportunity as well as a competitive threat. Clearly, Reliance across these different positions (i.e., specialised domains) is not always simple, neutral relations, but generates consequences and sometimes conflicts. Overall, the more Variance and Reliance there is at a given periphery the more challenging and complex it is to cross.

The varying conditions from stable to more fluid impact how we describe the complexity of the relations at a periphery. When Variance and Reliance are known and the conditions surrounding them are stable, managing the periphery is straightforward. However, when new Variance and Reliance arise, managing the periphery becomes progressively more challenging.

The Course; the Concept and the Conduct, each, are managed by a different process – RELOCATE (party-loyalists needed to understand the new mode of political narrative), RENDER (so as to avoid problems of interpretation) and RENOVATE (reassign the jobs to party-loyalists so that they are in sync with the new narrative and do not carry the baggage of personal relationships).

In the early phase of launch of new political programme by the Congress party in 2016-18, the high-command wanted to place their newest narrative (‘CHOWKIDAR CHOR HAI’) into the hands of the voters. The problem, however, was that the new narrative for new voters buying into this narrative came with little support from the existing party-loyalists. The party-machinery had therefore to face unhappy new voters whose bad mouthing the congress high-command experience jeopardised future voter conversion.

Theoretically, political parties are agencies for the expression and execution of public opinion but in practice parties create, direct, influence and often control public opinion. Indeed this is the chief function of a party. For this, a party must do two things. In the first place it must establish contact with the masses. It must go out among the masses with its wares—its principles, policies, ideas and candidates. In the second place it must carry on propaganda among the masses in favour of its wares. It must animate them and enlighten them.

A party which fails to forge concerted action has no right to call itself a party.

Which of these things the Congress Party has done as an organization? The Congress Party has only the High Command. It has a feeble machine of people at cross-roads. Not having a proper machine, the high command is only a shadow. Its following is confined to that second concentric ring consisting of persons who are bound by ties of tradition. Is there any wonder if the Congress Party has fallen into disrepute? The Congress Party appears to have forgotten the most elementary fact that organization is essential for the accomplishment of any purpose and particularly in politics where the harnessing of so many divergent elements in a working unity is so great.

Who is responsible for this collapse of the Congress Party in India? However much we may regret to have to say it, it will have to be admitted that the responsibility for this catastrophe does to some extent fall on Rahul and Sonia. Rahul belonged to the Classes. He was born and bred among them. He never became a man of masses. The Congress Party has no machine and the reason why it did not forge a machine is because it did not believe in mass contact. This aversion to mass contact is the legacy of Sonia; and it is in complete reversal to the legacy of Nehru and Indira. In avoiding mass contact the party is following the tradition set by Sonia. There is another legacy of Sonia to the Congress Party and that relates to the false faith in the driving force of her political narrative. Men are mortal. So are narratives. It is wrong to hold that one narrative will take roots ‘ex proprio vigore.’ A narrative needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Both will otherwise wither and die. But some plants will still die even with regular watering. So will be the fate of political narratives. If the Congress high-command is content with mere formulation of a narrative it is also because of this tradition of Sonia.

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First published 10.09.2020

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Is Journalism Dead?

Journalism in India was once a profession, so we had heard. It has now become a trade. It has no more moral function than the selling of pizza, a fast and convenient food item of suspicious nutritional value. Journalists and press no longer regard themselves as responsible advisers of the public. To give the news uncoloured by any motive, to present a certain view of public policy which it believes to be for the good of the community, to correct and chastise without fear all those, no matter how high, who have chosen a wrong or a barren path, is not regarded by journalism in India as its first or foremost duty.

To anoint a hero, and worship him, has become the principal duty or mission of the journalists. Under this new configuration, news is replaced by sensation, reasoned opinion by unreasoning passion, and appeal to the minds of responsible people by appeal to the emotions of the irresponsible.

The script is written by drum-beaters to glorify their heroes. Never has the interest of country been sacrificed so senselessly for the propagation of hero-worship. Never has hero-worship become as blind as we see it today in India and may the rest of the world. There are some honourable exceptions, but they are too few and their voice is never heard.

Entrenched behind the plaudits of the Press, the spirit of domination exhibited by the politicians, has transgressed all limits. By their domination they have demoralised their followers and demoralised politics. By their domination they have made half their followers fools and the other half hypocrites. In establishing their supremacy they have taken the aid of “big business” and money magnates. For a long time now, in our country, money is taking the field as an organised power. The questions which, we, the people, are not willing to answer are:

WHO SHALL RULE – wealth or man?

WHICH SHALL LEAD – money or intellect?

WHO SHALL HOLD PUBLIC OFFICES – educated and patriotic free men or the feudal serfs of corporate Capital?

For the present, Indian politics, instead of being spiritualised, has become grossly commercialised, so much so that it has become a byword for corruption. Journalists and media have become willing accomplices. Politics and journalism have together constituted a kind of an intolerably insanitary sewage system.

Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. Media used to be a carrier – a carrier of news, journalistic opinion, entertainment and advertising. Today, media has become synonymous with press and journalism. Coupled with social-media, print, television, internet and other in-pocket-media makes news which the journalists follow and report. Journalist and newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, the “Father of Journalism” (born as Jozsef Politzer in Hungary in 1847) must be turning in his grave in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Where has this so called pillar of democracy gone – wo haben wir erreicht – donde hemos llegado – où avons-nous attaint – यह कहां आ गये हम…….?

(first published 23 Aug 2020)

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Ambedkar on Gandhi and Jinnah and the PR-Spin by Congress

[Excerpts from a speech delivered by Ambedkar on 18th January 1943 in Poona.]

“We have on the horizon of India two great men, so big that they could be identified without being named—Gandhi and Jinnah, What sort of a history they will make may be a matter for posterity to tell. For us it is enough that they do indisputably make headlines for the Press. They hold leading strings. One leads the Hindus, the other leads the Muslims. They are the idols and heroes of the hour. I propose to compare them with Ranade. How do they compare with Ranade? It is necessary to make some observations upon their temperaments and methods with which they have now familiarized us. I can give only my impressions of them, for what they are worth. The first thing that strikes me is that it would be difficult to find two persons who would rival them for their colossal egotism, to whom personal ascendency is everything and the cause of the country a mere counter on the table. They have made Indian politics a matter of personal feud. Consequences have no terror for them; indeed they do not occur to them until they happen. When they do happen they either forget the cause, or if they remember it, they overlook it with a complacency which saves them from any remorse. They choose to stand on a pedestal of splendid isolation. They will themselves off from their equals. They prefer to open themselves to their inferiors. They are very unhappy at and impatient of criticism, but are very happy to be fawned upon by flunkeys. Both have developed a wonderful stagecraft and arrange things in such a way that they are always in the limelight wherever they go. Each of course claims to be supreme. If supremacy was their only claim, it would be a small wonder. In addition to supremacy each claims infallibility for himself. Pius IX during whose sacred regime as Pope the issue of infallibility was raging said— “Before I was Pope I believed in Papal infallibility, now I feel it.” This is exactly the attitude of the two leaders whom Providence—may I say in his unguarded moments—has appointed to lead us. This feeling of supremacy and infallibility is strengthened by the Press.”

“Never has the interest of country been sacrificed so senselessly for the propagation of hero-worship. Never has hero-worship become so blind as we see it in India today. There are, I am glad to say, honourable exceptions. But they are too few and their voice is never heard. Entrenched behind the plaudits of the Press, the spirit of domination exhibited by these two great men has transgressed all limits. By their domination they have demoralised their followers and demoralized politics. By their domination they have made half their followers fools and the other half hypocrites. In establishing their supremacy they have taken the aid of “big business” and money magnates. For the first time in our country money is taking the field as an organised power.”

“For the present, Indian politics, at any rate the Hindu part of it, instead of being spiritualized has become grossly commercialized, so much so that it has become a byword for corruption. Many men of culture are refusing to concern themselves in this cesspool. Politics has become a kind of sewage system intolerably unsavoury and insanitary. To become a politician is like going to work in the drain.

Politics in the hands of these two great men have become a competition in extravaganza. If Mr. Gandhi is known as Mahatma, Mr. Jinnah must be known as Qaid-i-Azim. If Gandhi has the Congress, Mr. Jinnah must have the Muslim League. If the Congress has a Working Committee and the All-India Congress Committee, the Muslim League must have its Working Committee and its Council. The session of the Congress must be followed by a session of the League. II the Congress issues a statement the League must also follow suit. If the Congress passes a Resolution of 17,000 words, the Muslim League’s Resolution must exceed it by at least a thousand words. If the Congress President has a Press Conference, the Muslim League President must have his. If the Congress must address an appeal to the United Nations, the Muslim League must not allow itself to be outbidden. When is all this to end? When is there to be a settlement? There are no near prospects. They will not meet, except on preposterous conditions. Jinnah insists that Gandhi should admit that he is a Hindu. Gandhi insists that Jinnah should admit that he is one of the leaders of the Muslims. Never has there been such a deplorable state of bankruptcy of statesmanship as one sees in these two leaders of India. They are making long and interminable speeches, like lawyers whose trade it is to contest everything, concede nothing and talk by the hour. Suggest anything by way of solution for the deadlock to either of them, and it is met by an everlasting “Nay”. Neither will consider a solution of the problems which is not eternal. Between them Indian politics has become “frozen” to use a well-known Banking phrase and no political action is possible.”

[Excerpts from the preface to the above speech written by Ambedkar on 15 March 1943 at Delhi.]

“I am condemned because I criticized Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah for the mess they have made of Indian politics, and that in doing so I am alleged to have shown towards them hatred and disrespect. In reply to this charge what I have to say is that I have been a critic and I must continue to be such. It may be I am making mistakes, but I have always felt that it is better to make mistakes than to accept guidance and direction from others or to sit silent and allow things to deteriorate. Those who have accused me of having been actuated by feelings of hatred forget two things. In the first place this alleged hatred is not born of anything that can be called personal. If I am against them, it is because I want a settlement. I want a settlement of some sort, and I am not prepared to wait for an ideal settlement. Nor can I tolerate [for] anyone on whose will and consent settlement depends, to stand on [his] dignity and play the Grand Moghul. In the second place, no one can hope to make any effective mark upon his time, and bring the aid that is worth bringing to great principles and struggling causes, if he is not strong in his love and his hatred. I hate injustice, tyranny, pompousness and humbug, and my hatred embraces all those who are guilty of them. I want to tell my critics that I regard my feelings of hatred as a real force. They are only the reflex of the love I bear for the causes I believe in, and I am in no wise ashamed of it. For these reasons I tender no apology for my criticism of Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah, the two men who have brought India’s political progress to a standstill.

The condemnation is by the Congress Press. I know the Congress Press well. I attach no value to its criticism. It has never refuted my arguments. It knows only [how] to criticise, rebuke and revile me for everything I do; and to misreport, misrepresent and pervert everything I say. Nothing that I do pleases the Congress Press. This animosity of the Congress Press towards me can to my mind, not unfairly, be explained as a reflex of the hatred of the Hindus for the Untouchables. That their animosity has become personal is clear from the fact that the Congress Press feels offended for my having criticised Mr. Jinnah, who has been the butt and the target of the Congress for the last several years.

However strong and however filthy be the abuses which the Congress Press chooses to shower on me, I must do my duty. I am no worshipper of idols. I believe in breaking them. I insist that if I hate Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah—I dislike them, I do not hate them—it is because I love India more. That is the true faith of a nationalist. I have hopes that my countrymen will some day learn that the country is greater than the men, that the worship of Mr. Gandhi or Mr. Jinnah and service to India are two very different things and may even be contradictory of each other.”

See:

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol. 1,  

Publisher: Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India (First Edition by Education Department, Govt. of Maharashtra: 14 April, 1979, Re-printed by Dr. Ambedkar Foundation: January, 2014 – from where the attached images have been extracted)

Additional details: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/txt_ambedkar_ranade.html

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Globalisation: Did We Stretch It Too Far?

Globalisation refers to the integration of markets in the global economy, leading to the increased interconnectedness of national economies.  Markets where globalisation is particularly significant include financial markets, such as capital markets, money and credit markets, and insurance markets, commodity markets, including markets for oil, coffee, tin, and gold, and product markets, such as markets for motor vehicles and consumer electronics. Interconnectedness has also created inter-dependencies. The globalisation of language, media, information, attire, culture, food, sport, entertainment, taboos, behaviour and styles of human interaction is also a feature of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

After years of hedging or discounting the malign effects of free trade, it is time to face facts: globalisation caused job losses and depressed wages, and the usual remedies – such as instructing affected populations to accept the new reality – aren’t going to work. Unless something changed, the political consequences were likely to get worse.

It was only a few decades ago that globalisation was held by many, even by some critics, to be an inevitable, unstoppable force. “Rejecting globalisation,” the American journalist George Packer has written, “was like rejecting the sunrise.”

The decline and fall of the Soviet Union came about not because of any lack of its military might. Rather, it imploded because the West, and specifically the United States, used freedom of thought, capitalism and the enormous power of the free market to marginalize, reduce, and collapse the Soviet Union. They simply couldn’t compete on any level with the West. From technology to the quality of life provided for its people, the Soviet Union became a nation without a future. United States has since then been leading a uni-polar world. The US dominance spread far and wide but did not see any interdependence.

China learnt from the Soviet collapse and decided to pursue the goal of global dominance, and become the second of the bi-pole. The first action was managing its domestic affairs. China imposed unprecedented restrictions on its citizens while introducing its version of state-capitalism. This combined thought control with billions in international trade that, in turn, has funded a growing and potent military armed with nuclear weapons. For China’s leadership, however, that is still not enough. The United States continues to dominate the 21st century.

Trump was the first US President to acknowledge that globalisation had resulted into hundreds of billions in investment, manufacturing, jobs, and entire factories leaving the United States for China. This created consternation, alarm and quite a bit of anger in Beijing, which had not expected America ever to acknowledge that China benefitted due to US policies and thought. China quickly recognised that if the U.S. continued to demand economic reciprocity, China could easily lose its ability to claim solo superpower status for the remaining decades of the 21st century.

It is not certain that Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, actually said, “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” but if he didn’t, he certainly thought it, and if still around would like to claim that foresight as his own. China’s leaders have long believed that America’s unsustainable trade imbalance with China is that rope. US have given its technology, its funds and its markets to China and China now has the rope round the US neck. And this has not happen for the first time. Eighty years ago, it was Hitler and Pearl Harbour, and more recently 9/11. US have been attacked using US technology and US funds.

The interconnectedness of the globe and integration of the global-supply-chain of the contagion has been demonstrated by the pan-world spread of Sars-Cov2 virus within a few weeks. Can one ask for any higher efficiency of exchange?

The entire World in general and the US in particular need to revisit the idea of globalisation and reorient it to interconnectedness of national economies minus the public welfare including but not limited to food-safety, national defence, healthcare and national-leadership. Dilution of nation-state which has taken place over the last 3-decades has to make way for a renewed sense of patriotism that will protect our nation today and far into the future. SWAADHYAAY, SWADESHI and SWAAVALAMBAN are the mantras which were never obsolete but forgotten in the allure of ‘wealth-creation’ for ‘shareholders.’

 

(First published on 09 May 2020 on LinkedIn)

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