Guidelines and Protocols for Prioritising COVID-19 Patients

Imagine that day when India has reached a situation where every ventilator and every ICU bed in the country is taken and only two beds are available in the army hospital in the ICU for admitting Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. Unfortunately, only one ventilator is available. God forbid, at that moment, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Leader of Opposition catch COVID-19 and all three need an ICU bed and a ventilator. What would be the protocol for allocating these resources (2-beds and one ventilator) among the three claimants?

This completely fictional and hypothetical scenario has been presented above purely for communicating the point which is being made. No ill-will or malaise is intended towards anyone caricatured in this picture.

COVID-19 is affecting 210 countries and territories around the world. With confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world nearing two million and deaths from the disease already having surpassed a hundred thousand, a growing number of national and local medical authorities have begun issuing guidelines and protocols that call for hospitals to prioritise younger patients over those who are older.

The positive news about the cases of recovery heading towards half a million mark is getting lost on people because of the fear of death causing cognitive dissonance among people who filter out all positive news and let the feeling of fatality seep in.

There is no denying the fact that no medical and health care system in any country has the capacity of handling the sudden spike in numbers of patients which the likes of Italy and Spain have seen.  The scarcity of healthcare resources in India can be directly attributed to decades of mismanaged public healthcare system. While India is working overtime to ramp up the capacity, the growth of the current epidemic makes it likely that a point of imbalance between the clinical needs of patients with COVID-19 and the effective availability of intensive resources will be reached. Should it become impossible to provide all patients with intensive care services, it will be necessary to apply criteria for access to intensive treatment, which depends on the limited resources available.

COVID-19 does not discriminate among its victims in terms of their social or constitutional status. It did not spare even the British Prime Minister.

In Italy and Spain, the two countries most affected by COVID-19 in Europe, doctors in overwhelmed intensive care units have for weeks been making life or death decisions about who receives emergency treatment. The new protocols, however, amount to government directives that instruct medical personnel effectively to abandon elderly patients to their fate.

There are confidential protocols in Spain, now leaked, which effectively advises that elderly people afflicted by CONVID-19 should die at home. The document stated that dying at home was more humane as it avoids suffering: patients can die while surrounded by their families, something that is not possible in overcrowded hospitals. The protocol also advised medical personnel to avoid referring to the lack of hospital beds.

In Italy, a document prepared by a crisis management unit in the northern city of Turin also proposed that COVID-19 patients aged 80 or older or that in poor health should be denied access to intensive care if there are not enough hospital beds.

What is the best way to serve humanity? Aspects such as who has the greatest chance of surviving an admission to intensive care will come into play. It is up to the doctors to see who has the best chance of survival.

One must ask if the high rate of mortality among the elderly is a feature of COVID-19 or an outcome of discriminatory medical care provided to them. The large numbers of dead, especially among the elderly, appears to be the price that Indians would be paying just like the European countries.

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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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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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2019 – Crystal-Gazing: Opinion of the Electorate – भविष्य की झांकी: मतदाताओं की राय

CRYSTAL-GAZING:   Opinion of the Electorate just before the 2019 General Elections

[Because I don’t want to choose between the ‘devil’ and the ‘deep-sea’ and I quiver being left with NO CHOICES for the next government]

  • Were there any real differences between the UPA and the NDA governments?
  • One governed through mean self interest; the other governed by reckless adventurism
  • One was oblivious to the future and destroyed the present; the other was correcting the present but destroyed the future
  • One lived off the charisma of a dynasty; the other thrived on charisma of one man
  • One rewarded loyalty to the dynasty; the other rewarded loyalty to the man
  • One had muted its Prime Minister; the other had muted most of its Ministers
  • One had smart ministers of corrupt intents; the other had stupid ministers of confused intents
  • One had divided the country on religion and tried to appease the minority; the other further divided the religious majority on caste and tried to appease the so called lower castes
  • … … … … … … … … …

 

CRYSTAL-GAZING:   Opinion of the Electorate just after the 2019 General Elections

  • One was done in by its allies; the other was done in by its ‘Bhasmasurs’ and ‘Shakunis’
  • End of the Story
  • ॐ शान्ति: शान्ति: शान्ति:॥

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Hindi version follows:

हिन्दी संस्करण आगे है:

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भविष्य की झांकी: मतदाताओं की राय – 2019 के आम चुनावों से तुरंत पहले

[क्योंकि मैं अंधे-गहरे ‘खाई’ और ‘कुएं’ के बीच चयन नहीं करना चाहता हूं और मुझे लगता है कि अगली सरकार चुनने में मेरे पास और कोई विकल्प नहीं होगा]

क्या यूपीए और एनडीए सरकारों के बीच कोई वास्तविक अंतर था?

  • पहले ने नीच स्वहित के माध्यम से शासन किया; दूसरे ने उतावले दुस्साहस के माध्यम से
  • पहले ने भविष्य की परवाह नही की और वर्तमान को नष्ट कर दिया; दूसरे ने वर्तमान को सही करने के फेर में भविष्य को ही नष्ट कर दिया
  • पहला वंशवाद के करिश्मे से चला; दूसरा सिर्फ एक आदमी के करिश्मे से
  • पहले ने वंश के लिए वफादारी को पुरस्कृत किया; दूसरे ने सिर्फ एक आदमी के लिए वफादारी को पुरस्कृत किया
  • पहले ने अपने प्रधान मंत्री को मूक कर रखा था; दूसरे ने अपने अधिकांश मंत्रियों को मूक कर रखा था
  • पहले के पास भ्रष्ट लक्ष्यों से लैस चतुर मंत्री थे; दूसरे के पास व्याकुल इरादों के जाहिल मंत्री थे
  • पहले ने देश को धर्म पर विभाजित कर धार्मिक अल्पसंख्यक को प्रसन्न करने की कोशिश की थी; दूसरे ने धार्मिक बहुसंख्यक को जाति पर विभाजित कर पिछड़ी जाति को खुश करने की कोशिश की थी
  • … … … … … … … …

 

भविष्य की झांकी: मतदाताओं की राय – 2019 के आम चुनावों के तुरंत बाद

  • पहले को उसके अपने अवसरवादी सहयोगी ले डूबे थे, दूसरा स्वयं के वरदान प्राप्तिकर्ता “भस्मासुरो” द्वारा खाक कर दिया गया था।
  • इति।

ॐ शान्ति: शान्ति: शान्ति:॥

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AICTE: A Regulator Which Failed Management Education

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is a noble ideal but a flawed institution. AICTE, an advisory body established in 1945, was converted into a statutory and a regulatory body in 1987. In nearly 30 years of its statutory existence, AICTE has not been able to achieve anything of significance in pursuit of even one out of its three mandated objectives (1) Promotion of Quality in Technical Education (2) Planning and Coordinated Development of Technical Education System; and (3) Regulations and Maintenance of Norms and Standards.

AICTE has only emerged as a licensing body (legacy of license/quota raj of Industrial Development and Regulation Act carried over to the field of education) approving setting up new Technical Institution offering Technical Programme at Diploma/ Post Diploma/ Degree/ Post Graduate Degree/ Post Graduate Diploma Level in the disciplines of Engineering and Technology, Architecture, Town Planning, Management, Pharmacy, and Applied Arts and Crafts. There is a major outlier in this scheme of things which causes a major policy aberration. While most programmes seeking approvals in Management are at the Masters or postgraduate level; they are at Bachelors or undergraduate level for rest of the disciplines. Even in terms of ‘design-thinking’ engineering and technology is a ‘craft of rationality’ while management is a ‘craft of irrationality.’

AICTE has recently created a buzz around ‘out-come based learning objectives’ and National Board of Accreditation has become the noise-amplifier for the buzz. Out-Come Based Education is a concept more suited to upper-secondary-level vocational skills training and lower-tertiary-level technical education and surely is out of place in any post-graduate education. It is disheartening to note how blindly and mindlessly, this buzz is being pushed around. It is equally disheartening to see how Gurus and teachers fall on their knees before the Ministers and bureaucrats in the Ministry of Human Resource Development to catch their eyes. It is even more disturbing to see the Ministers and bureaucrats enjoying their Gurus and teachers going supine before them; for it leaves a feeling that these Ministers and bureaucrats were never educated. This is happening in a land where we take hypocritical pride in teaching our children –

“गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णु र्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः। गुरु साक्षात परब्रह्मा तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः॥”  and

“गुरू गोविन्द दोऊ खड़े, काके लागूं पांय। बलिहारी गुरू अपने गोविन्द दियो बताय॥” 

May be the NCERT and the MHRD should purge such content from the textbooks? May be those who did not receive such education rise on to become successful Ministers and bureaucrats and others are left behind to be subservient Gurus and teachers who would prostate and beg before the new Gods of Indian democratic society.

Keeping all operational and leadership issues like dys-functionalities and corruption aside which have become the hallmark of AICTE, major policy and design flaws like over-dependence on Engineering and Technology disciplines in staffing and leadership positions; and treatment of delivery of education as an assembly line operation have resulted into more than 11000 unviable, small-scale, multiple factories producing ‘technical manpower’ which has no ‘fitness for use’ by the industry and society. [Just for reference, USA has less than 1500]. Is it not a truly socialistic distribution of licenses and advocacy for “Small is Beautiful” (apologies to Schumacher 1973)?

The biggest victim has been “Management” discipline and it has also been the biggest challenge to AICTE itself. For “Management” discipline, AICTE is already dead because those whom it was designed to regulate have resisted it by any means necessary. Through legal intervention, “Management” discipline has blunted every attempt by AICTE to regulate the admission tests, session-dates, fee-structure, curriculum, work-loads, and duration and nearly every other process in Management programmes. AICTE can do nothing about Institutions like the ISB Hyderabad-Mohali and Great Lakes Gurgaon who do not bother to seek any approval in spite of the law which prohibits such delinquency.

It would have been far better to keep ‘Management’ discipline out of the purview of AICTE and entrust this domain to a separate and another body which could be called the “All India Council for Management Education” or better still confer similar statutory powers as were conferred on to an erstwhile advisory body AICTE to the similarly existing advisory body, “All India Board of Management Studies” which was sort of amalgamated within the AICTE.

The AICTE’s leaders have, in addition, not held themselves to particularly high standards. They indulge in nepotism, curry favours from the institutions they licence and never forgo a chance to preside over the social events of their licensees conferring undeserved legitimacy on to them. “Conflict of Interest” does not belong to the lexicon of this institution. Even worse for its credibility are the allegations about a culture of bribery and misdoing by the staff of AICTE who do not take action on genuine complaints made against delinquent institutions but are happy to make life hell for others on receipt of political nudge. People making allegations may be no angels; still, the evidence deserves an impartial review.

AICTE is ineffective, unaccountable and overly political. In practice, All India Council for Technical Education is a failed institution.

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‘Bhakt’ and Indian Politics – भक्त और भारतीय राजनीति

Until the 2014-15, the word “Bhakt” meant a ‘religious devotee’ because the origins of the so called “Bhakti movement” are to be found in the religious, devotional trend that emerged in medieval Hinduism and was later revolutionised in Sikhism. It travelled to Islam as Sufism. The Bhakti movement originated in the eighth-century Tamil south India, and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards. The Bhakti movement regionally developed around different gods and goddesses, such as Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Shakti goddesses), as well as a wide range of philosophical positions ranging from dualism of Dvaita to absolute monism of Advaita Vedanta.

The movement has traditionally been considered as an influential social reformation in Hinduism, and provided an individual-focussed alternative path to spirituality regardless of one’s caste of birth or gender. Postmodern scholars suggest that Bhakti movement was a revival, reworking and re-contextualisation of ancient Vedic traditions.

The Shvetashvatara Upanishad, the Katha Upanishad and the Bhagavad Gita mention Bhakti. The epilogue verses of the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, uses the word Bhakti as follows:

यस्य देवे परा भक्तिः यथा देवे तथा गुरौ । तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः ॥ २३ ॥

“He who has highest Bhakti (love, devotion) of Deva (God), just like his Deva, so for his Guru (teacher), to him who is high-minded, these teachings will be illuminating.”

The Bhagavad Gita, introduces “bhakti marga” (the path of faith/devotion) as one of three ways to spiritual freedom and release, the other two being “karma marga” (the path of action/effort) and “jnana marga” (the path of knowledge). The word “Bhakt” also finds a mention in chapter 7 of Bhagavd Gita which postulates four types of devotes:-

चतुर्विद्या भजन्ते मम जनः सुकृतिनो अर्जुन, आर्तो जिज्ञासु अर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ ||

Four types of men begin to render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of material wealth, and the one who has already realized knowledge of the Absolute.”

  • Arta (the distressed) – people suffering pain at physical or at mental level.
  • Artharti (Devotees with certain wishes) – desirous of material wealth, kids, name and fame.
  • Jigyasu (Knowledge Seeker) – have faith in God and want to explore more about Him.
  • Jnani (Self Realised) – who have finally realized GOD and have true knowledge of Him.

To the best of my awareness and limitations of memory, the word “Bhakt” did not exist in Indian politics before 2014.  And subject to the same limitations, when BJP was on a roll in 2014 during its electioneering and victory; this term was used by Shri Digvijay Singh of the Congress. [I extend unconditional apologies to the true and real owner of this intellectual capital if the credit has wrongfully gone to someone else.] This term was used in a disparaging and a derogatory sense to humiliate some of the volunteers who were acting as impact-multipliers for social media campaign unleashed by the BJP IT Cell.

When Congress recorded its most humiliating of the performance at any election, rather than gracefully acknowledge the brilliance of work done by the BJP IT Cell, the ungraceful losers, extended the description “Bhakt” to any and every voice attacking the pseudo-secularism, or the hypocrisy of the national media or seen as lending even an insignificant support to Hinduism or the intents of the BJP government. Though signified as “Bhakts”, the signifying meaning is that such people are actually “Sinners” of every political party in general and the Congress in particular, save and except the BJP.

I support neither the BJP nor the Congress in taking pot-shots at each other in public utterances and political debates. I am no one to advise them which adjectives or abuses may not be used in their mutual descriptions and debates. I do resent the whole idea of disparaging a very noble, pious and a religious belief of “Bhakti” and “Bhakt” belonging to my religion. I celebrate “Bhakti” and for me the most auspicious “Bhakt” from my mythology have been “Bhakt-Hanuman”and “Bhakt-Prahalad” while from my rich cultural history, the undeniable “Bhakt-Mira.” If the illiterates are trying to impute any idea of Modi or BJP being the “God” of the “Bhakts”; this is not creative liberty; for in using such metaphor, the illiterates are running down my “Gods” and my “Bhakti”.

For the benefit of the illiterates, “Bhakti” is spiritual, a love and devotion to religious concepts or principles, that engages both emotion and intellection. The word Bhakti should not be understood as uncritical emotion, but as committed engagement. Bhakti movement in Hinduism refers to ideas and engagement that emerged in the medieval era on love and devotion to religious concepts built around one or more gods and goddesses. I find it disturbing that some of the illiterates are actually more Hindu and more nationalistic than I would ever be. While Hindus and Indians could fight the enemies outside, they have always lost to the enemies within. The irony has been that most of the “enemies within” have not been anti-Hindu or anti-India, but because of their unswerving devotion and blind faith in some forces, they have acted in deviant ways and ironically, such forces have turned out to be “anti-Hindu” and “anti-India.”

Time, the “pseudo-seculars” and the “Bhakt-bashers” appreciate that any “anti-Hindu” rhetoric can never be “pro-India” and any “pro-India” speechifying cannot be “anti-Hindu.”

 

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भक्त और भारतीय राजनीति

2014-15 तक “भक्त” शब्द का अर्थ ‘धार्मिक भक्त’ था क्योंकि मध्यकालीन हिंदू धर्म में उभरी धार्मिक और  भक्ति की प्रवृत्ति में तथाकथित “भक्ति आंदोलन” की उत्पत्ति पायी जाती है, जो आगे चल सिख धर्म के रूप में उपजी और विकसित हुई। यही “भक्ति आंदोलन” सूफीवाद के रूप में इस्लाम में पहुंचा। भक्ति आंदोलन आठवीं शताब्दी के दक्षिण तमिल भारत में पैदा हुआ, और उत्तर की ओर फैल गया। यह 15 वीं शताब्दी के बाद से पूर्व और उत्तर भारत में फैल गया। भक्ति आंदोलन क्षेत्रीय रूप से विभिन्न देवताओं और देवियों, जैसे वैष्णववाद (विष्णु), शैववाद (शिव), शक्तिवाद (शक्ति देवी), साथ ही साथ द्वैतवाद से लेकर अद्वैत वेदांत के दार्शनिक पदों की एक विस्तृत श्रृंखला के रूप में विकसित हुए।

इस आंदोलन को परंपरागत रूप से हिंदू धर्म में एक प्रभावशाली सामाजिक सुधार के रूप में माना जाता है, और आध्यात्मिकता के लिए व्यक्ति-केंद्रित, जन्म जाति या लिंग से परे, वैकल्पिक मार्ग प्रदान करता है। आधुनिक विद्वानों का मानना है कि भक्ति आंदोलन ने प्राचीन वैदिक परंपराओं का पुनरुत्थान कर नए सिरे से पुन: संदर्भित किया था।

श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषद, कठोपनिषद और श्रीमद्भागवतगीता में भक्ति का जिक्र है। श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषद के उपसंहार छंद, भक्ति शब्द का प्रयोग निम्नानुसार करते हैं:

यस्य देवे परा भक्तिः यथा देवे तथा गुरौ । तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः ॥ २३ ॥

“He who has highest Bhakti (love, devotion) of Deva (God), just like his Deva, so for his Guru (teacher), to him who is high-minded, these teachings will be illuminating.”

भगवत गीता, आध्यात्मिक स्वतंत्रता और मोक्ष के तीन रास्तों में से एक के रूप में “भक्ति मार्ग” (विश्वास/भक्ति का मार्ग) पेश करती है, अन्य दो रास्ते “कर्म मार्ग” (क्रिया/प्रयास का मार्ग) और “ज्ञान मार्ग” (ज्ञान का मार्ग) हैं। भगवत गीता के अध्याय 7 में भी “भक्त” शब्द का उल्लेख मिलता है जो चार प्रकार के समर्पणों को प्रस्तुत करता है: –

चतुर्विद्या भजन्ते मम जनः सुकृतिनो अर्जुन, आर्तो जिज्ञासु अर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ ||

“चार प्रकार के पुरुष मेरे लिए भक्ति सेवा प्रदान करना शुरू करते हैं- अर्त (परेशान), जिज्ञासु, भौतिक संपदा के साधक, और जिसने पहले से ही पूर्ण ज्ञान का ज्ञान प्राप्त कर लिया है।”

Four types of men begin to render devotional service unto Me— the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of material wealth, and the one who has already realized knowledge of the Absolute.”

मेरी याददाश्त के अनुसार, 2014 से पहले भारतीय राजनीति में “भक्त” शब्द मौजूद नहीं था। जहां तक मुझे याद आता है, इस शब्द का इस्तेमाल कांग्रेस के श्री दिग्विजय सिंह ने 2014 में जब भाजपा चुनावी जीत की ओर बढ़ रही थी, तब किया था। इस शब्द का इस्तेमाल बीजेपी आईटी सेल के सोशल मीडिया अभियान के प्रभाव-गुणक के रूप में कार्य कर रहे स्वयंसेवकों को नीचा दिखाने, अपमानित करने, निरुत्साहित करने के उद्देश्य से अपमानजनक और हस्यास्पद अर्थ में किया गया था। [यदि मैने अनभिज्ञता में यह श्रेय श्री सिंह को दे दिया हो तो मैं इस बौद्धिक पूंजी के सच्चे और वास्तविक स्वामी से बिना शर्त माफी मांगता हूं]

जब कांग्रेस ने 2014 में किसी भी चुनाव में सबसे अपमानजनक प्रदर्शन का रिकॉर्ड स्थपित किया तो भाजपा आईटी सेल द्वारा किए गए काम की प्रतिभा को गहराई से स्वीकार करने के बजाय, गरिमाहीन हारने वालों ने,  “भक्त” का बिल्ला हर किसी ऐसी आवाज़ पर चस्पा कर दिया जो छद्म-धर्मनिरपेक्षता पर या राष्ट्रीय मीडिया की पाखंडता पर हमला करने वाली हो, या जो भूले-भटके ही कुछ ऐसा कह दे जिसे हिंदू धर्म या बीजेपी सरकार को समर्थन के रूप में पेश किया जा सके। यद्यपि “भक्त” एक सांकेतिक संज्ञा के रूप में प्रयुक्त शब्द था, परंतु, इस संकेत में “पापी” अर्थ का समावेश था, “भक्त” से तात्पर्य था भाजपा को छोड़कर, सभी राजनीतिक दलों के प्रति और विशेष रूप से कांग्रेस के प्रति पाप करने वाले।

सार्वजनिक कथन और राजनीतिक बहस में, एक-दूसरे को आड़े हाथों लेने में जैसी भाषा का उपयोग बीजेपी और कांग्रेस की ओर से हो रहा है, मैं उसका समर्थन नहीं करता। लेकिन मैं उन्हें कोई सलाह भी देने की कोशिश नहीं कर रहा हूं कि उनके पारस्परिक वर्णन और बहस में कौन से “विशेषण” या “दुर्व्यवहार” का उपयोग नहीं किया जा सकता है। पर हिन्दू होने के नाते, मैं अपने धर्म से संबंधित एक बहुत ही महान, पवित्र और धार्मिक धारणा “भक्ति” और “भक्त” के अपमानित करने के भाव में उपयोग से आहत हूं। मैं “भक्ति” को एक अनुष्ठान के रूप में मनाता हूं और मेरी पौराणिक कथाओं से सबसे शुभ और श्रद्धेय “भक्त”  “भक्त-हनुमान” और “भक्त-प्रहलाद” हैं, तथा  मेरे समृद्ध सांस्कृतिक इतिहास के दौरान निर्विवाद “भक्त-मीरा” हैं।

“मोदी” या “बीजेपी” पर हमलावर होते हुए, यदि कुछ अशिक्षित और अज्ञानी “भक्त” शब्द का उपयोग उनके अनुयायियों को बदनाम करने के लिए प्रयोग में ला रहे हैं तो यह रचनात्मक स्वतंत्रता नहीं है। इस तरह के रूपक का उपयोग करके यह जाहिल और हेकड़ दीवाने मेरे “देवताओं”, मेरी “भक्ति” और मेरी आस्था का दुष्प्रयोग कर रहे हैं।

शिक्षित जाहिलों के कुछ ज्ञान-लाभ के लिए – “भक्ति” आध्यात्मिक है, धार्मिक अवधारणाओं या सिद्धांतों के प्रति प्रेम है, इसमें भावना और बोध-प्रक्रिया दोनों शामिल हैं। भक्ति शब्द को अनैतिक भावना के रूप में नहीं, बल्कि प्रतिबद्धता और वचनबद्धता के रूप में समझा जाना चाहिए। हिंदू धर्म में भक्ति आंदोलन उन विचारों और वचनबद्धता को दर्शाता है जो मध्ययुगीन युग में एक या एक से अधिक देवताओं और देवियों के प्रेम और भक्ति की धार्मिक अवधारणाओं के निर्माण के लिए उभरे। कुछ शिक्षित वास्तव में अधिक हिंदू और अधिक राष्ट्रवादी हैं जितना मैं कभी भी हुआ, और यह सच मुझे अधिक परेशान करता है। जबकि हिंदू और भारतीय बाहरी दुश्मनों से सदैव लड़ सकते थे, वे हमेशा अपनों के विश्वासघात से हारे हैं। विडंबना यह है कि “आंतरिक-दुश्मनों में से अधिकांश” हिंदू विरोधी या भारत विरोधी नहीं हैं, लेकिन कुछ शक्तियों में उनकी अविश्वसनीय आसक्ति और अंधविश्वास के चलते उन्होंने विचलित तरीकों से काम किया है। और दुर्भाग्य यह है कि ऐसी ताकतें “हिंदू विरोधी” और “भारत विरोधी” निकली हैं।

समय आ चुका है जब इस बदलते माहौल में झूठी-धर्मनिरपेक्षता का मुखौटा पहनने वाले यह समझने लगे कि हिंदू-विपक्षी तेवर कभी भी भारतीय-हित में नहीं हो सकते हैं और कोई राष्ट्र-समर्थक व्याख्यान हिंदू-विरोधी नहीं हो सकता है।

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Prime Time TV in India

With more than 400 of the 900 or so TV channels being News and Current Affairs, prime-time entertainment on television in India is provided by the News channels and not the entertainment channels. The format for prime-time programming for a 60-minute slot is uniform (indicating commoditization) across all these channels and comprises of less than 5 minutes of News (mostly obtained from syndication agencies) and 40-50 minutes of “high pitched, abusing and slugging matches between the political adversaries and the balance for commercial breaks depending on the fancy of the illiterate media-planners.

The party-spokespersons of the NDA and the UPA appearing on such TV debates each evening are more similar than they might like to think. All of them exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold India together; and they don’t hesitate to learn lessons from each other. Few of them can become the real show-stealers and then expect to be rewarded with Ministerial berths in the future Governments.

These debates have a brash and burly moderator, who rather than ensuring decorum, sanity or civility keeps fanning the profanity for maintaining the tempo of the show. Some of these moderators look forward to receiving the ‘Padma Awards’ over time. These shows lack substantive-content, depend on TRPs driven by sensationalism of the trivia and consequently lack audience engagement. These shows also fail to attract female audience. They are crass-entertainment with zilch day-after-recall.


 

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Supine Press, Burly Politics

Lets me begin with a disclaimer – It is extremely essential to separate the doctrine of INC from the followers and members of INC, otherwise, this post may be mistaken for BJP propaganda. The separation is necessary before one can analyse it openly and objectively. The analysis is important else it does more damage with brainwashed people going on rampage. The INC as a political party has been taken up from amongst so many mainly because, it has been the party in Government for most period of the Sovereign Democratic Republic of India. It is equally essential to state unequivocally and unconditionally that I am apolitical Indian nationalist who hates consumption of my fellow citizens as cannon-fodder in the bloody battle for one-upmanship in Indian politics.

The core binding glue of the INC establishment ever since Independence (and not prior to independence) has been ‘loyalty to the dynasty.’ History is replete with instances when any challenge to the dynasty from within the party has resulted in annihilation of the challengers. It is unbelievable to see the ‘educated and the intelligent’ within the INC to be completely and mindlessly subservient to the ‘illiterate and the stupid’ heirs of the dynasty in complete disregard to their inner-voice and national interest. They can pilot an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of India for not being democratic but they cannot impeach their dynastic leadership. It is equally unfathomable how the party which has ruled the largest democracy in the world in the past, and also wishes to rule it in the future does not uphold any democratic principles inside its own home. Its dynastic leadership has not let the party conduct any internal elections since 1972.

The avalanche of propaganda and “fake news”, which the dynasty is unleashing upon the Indian masses through the screen of UPA/INC, is not only indicative of an astonishing contempt for established democratic principles and the freedom of expression and information. It also reveals how truly terrified the dynasty has gone after falling from power, and just how far they will go in compromising democratic principles in order to be able to return to power at all costs. The dynasty and the political establishment of INC which considers itself as the political elite cannot come to terms with their failure in clinging to power. They are going overboard in using the slippery slope of “disinformation” and “polarisation” of people on lines of religion and caste, to cover up their long and established history of failures and hypocrisy and concurrently fuelling of dissent and resistance against the government.

The most influential journalists and media persons have been the beneficiaries of the illegitimate largesse including government accommodation, foreign jaunts, funds, priority in access to public property including public information and even the “Padma” awards bestowed upon them by the UPA/INC governments at the behest of the dynasty. These journalists are good human beings and have not forgotten the “good” done to them by the dynasty/INC. In keeping with their being beholden to their benefactors, they are willing to ‘stand for’ and ‘stand by’ their benefactors in bad times which have fallen upon them. INC leaders are getting these “loyal (bought out)” journalists to do their bidding by invoking their loyalty. The unholy alliance of INC and media giants to fuel the criticism of policies of the Indian government and to push under the carpet, all the skeletons of the misrule and abuse of power by the UPA/INC governments which continue to tumble out of cupboards every other day, is simply a “return on investment.”

The national media in India is geographically centred in Delhi. An episodic investigation into the backgrounds of some of the leading journalists of present day threw up some very interesting information. Most of them have been activists during their days in college, most of them were at different colleges of Delhi University or JNU or Jamia and most of them were affiliated to or even active members of either the All India Students Federation (related to Communist Party of India) or National Students Union of India (related to Indian National Congress). Very few of them were with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (related to Bhartiya Janata Party). Student wings, though not normally considered as factions of a political party, are usually intended as student focused extensions of party policy and ideology. Interestingly, those who were not active in the student wings of these parties were otherwise active through their youth wings or women wings. Their leanings are obviously towards the left and more than their leaning towards the Congress or the Communist ideologies, they have been indoctrinated to be anti the Sangh idealogy.

With the media assuming the role of a commentator rather than a reporter, the biases of the media moguls against the rightist ideologies are only getting more vitriolic and caustic with each passing day. The media has been successful in throwing the challenge of “award-waapasi” “intolerance” “Ghar-waapasi” “azaadi” “beef” “surya-namaskar” “Vande mataram” and similar other buzz at the ruling party.

Media, considered as a pillar of democracy has not much to its credit in the post-independence era. But for a handful, the fragility of the spine of Indian media was exposed by the INC rule of Emergency in 1975. It is unfortunate for the country and for the profession of journalism that a few journalists are busy paying dividends out of their capital, in advance, in the expectation of NDA/BJP bestowing similar largesse on them now or soon and/or the INC providing replenishment to them in the future, in lieu of their current loss of capital.

The misfortune however does not end here. It rather begins from here. Given that the BJP was voted to power for whatever agenda that the voters perceived it to have been standing for, and news (truth or untruth) which shows its failure, troubles the voters. The educated and the moderate amongst the voters either exercise the discretion of separating the fake from the truth or sulk by saying “politicians are all similar” or even accepting their mistake in having voted for BJP. The trouble is with the ignorant and the belligerent supporters. It is these who are actually the slaves of their abysmal ignorance and indulge in all kinds of misadventures fuelled by their belligerent arrogance of being in power and the belief that their power is now perpetual.

When ignorance and bigotry is allied with power, it becomes a dangerous force. When a sense of having been looted hurts the self-esteem, even the mightiest British regime can be brought down to their knees. INC also has its own share of ignorant and the belligerent supporters. Unfortunately, the supporters of INC are not interested in understanding. They are ignorantly convinced that they only need to believe that only one family which rules their party has the right to rule their country. They also don’t let go any opportunity of a misadventure just to refresh their memory of having been in power and the idea of salvaging the lost pride which they believe BJP has unfairly looted from them.

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret in tyranny is in keeping them ignorant. It is in this arena that both the Leaders of the BJP and the INC are equal tyrants. So what do they want, one might ask? My fellow citizens, they want you and they want me! They want to own you and me! They think they already do. They do not. But if you believe they do and you accept their conventions and their twisted philosophies, well that’s good enough for them. Leaders of the BJP and the INC are equally complicit.

 


 

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Weird Ways of Indian Secularism

No secular nation can segregate and discriminate its people based on their religion. Indian Constitution does not define the word Minority, but under Article 30, it has provided fundamental rights to religious minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice and right to equality of such institutions in the matter of receiving aid from the State.

The National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 defines “minority” as a notified community. Through a notification of 22 October 1993, government notified Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikhs, and Parsis (Jains were added later on) as “Minority Communities.” Of the six, 3 are Indic-religions while other 3 are from foreign lands. The most interesting ‘act of commission’ by the government was in notifying “Minority Communities” in place of communities which are “Minority” thereby very surreptitiously creating a ‘legal basis’ for religious affirmation and appeasement in a secular country. Followers of every other religion other than Hindu religion have been granted a legal status of a religious minority.

Caste and class are inherited. Is religion inherited? Can a citizen change ones inheritance? Can one convert from one religion to other? Then why would one not convert from one caste/class to other?

Can one become an atheist? Would it be possible to add Atheists to the list of already notified minority communities? Should some of us who are Hindus but not from any SC/ST/OBC attempt to become atheists to partake the joys of support provided by the Ministry of Minority Affairs?

Would the respected leaders and the intelligentsia, or any other Bharateeya be so kind to guide and advise?

 

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