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Saturday, May 27

The wooden horse of reservation !

One thing common to almost all the front line pro-quota arguments is an image of one affluent, well educated, greedy boy and another of the most underprivileged, oppressed guy you can imagine and as you can very well guess, the first one carries the label upper cast and the other one OBC/SC/ST. Please note the second label, it is not SC/St or OBC. It is SC/ST/OBC.

This is an ad that has sold its product like no other. It sells you reservation. In oppressed, it manages to create anger, in well to do upper cast, it manges to create a sense of guilt and they all buy the idea of reservation that would help the underprivileged kid get his due share from the bad guy. And the the get busy, get along with life, bothering little to ask what happened to the poor kid. I don't need to tell you what happened, you already know if you care to think beyond your false sense of having done something.

It is the same story that is repeated any number of times everyday on every red light crossing of India, a poor little kid asking for money. We sitting in the AC cars, riding on expensive bikes give them money and we feel relieved. We think that finally we have done something and saved our soul. Only that none of that happens. What happens is that whatever you give him is snatched away by the adult goon who is standing just outside your sight. He gets nothing. What is even worse is that the child is compelled to live like that for he makes money for the goon. Not only him, many after him suffer the same fate and those who want to buy peace of heart by spending money contribute to that.

I never (lately I have become a little soft on my stand but still) give any money to these children. Not because I am heartless but because I don't want to buy that false sense of having done something. Someday when I will be able to, I will do much more for some of them, something that would actually change their life and not compel them to be a poster boy. Same is my logic with reservations.

The creamy layer that exist on the top of both OBCs and SC/STs lets very few advantages to trickle down to actual needy sections. In the beginning the benefits went to a larger section of the society that helped them move to the forward rungs but now the process is near saturation. And the creamy layer judgment given by the supreme court is still not implemented by a large majority of states citing reasons like the absence of creamy layer in their state, it being very difficult to skim out creamy layer etc etc. Tamilnadu that is cited as the prime example of the success of reservations, is the prime example of what can happen by implementing such blanket reservations without proper monitoring and proper accountability.

I would hope that the well educated friends of mine, even those who think that reservations should be there, should not just fall for the ad that is presented to them. When you decide to buy reservation make sure and demand solid proof of that it indeed helps those for whom it is intended. Please don't become like our dear FM whom "life tells" that reservations are working. I am sorry to tell him that life is exaggerating to say the least. Please stand up for a more well formed and nuanced reservation policy something that is actively monitored, is time bound and that helps those who need help.

Wednesday, May 24

A Black Day, A new beginning

Despite thinking about it many items, I never ended up writing a post about reservations. But today I must write for even though whatever happened was bound to happen, the callousness of the government never fails to hurt.

Yes let me say today that I am against reservations, in letter and in spirit. The reasons are many and I have collected a list of my questions and observations during last 15-20 days but I won't raise any of them today. Only thing that matters at the moment is that in a country and society like ours, reservation are almost irreversible and that is enough for me to be against them. There has to be affirmative action, there are people out there who require special help from the establishment but reservation doesn't make the cut.

And I am against reservations because they force me to be casteist even when I don't want to. At one level they assume that only Dalits will care about dalits. That is why they need equal representation in everything. It says that one needs people from their own caste everywhere if they want to get things done. And it teaches people to look only at small, short sighted gains. As somebody says, they produce a false sense of empowerment.

However the biggest disappointment has been our PM and our FM. Even if I didn't agree at times with their views and acts and choices, I thought them to be rational and upright people. Manmohan Singh might be both but he lacks a backbone. I can see no reason why he would behave the way he did during the whole thing and still continue as PM. It is a national humiliation for him. And Chidambaram thinks that we don't need a evaluation of reservation policy because life tells him that they work. I flushed down any respect for him down the drain today morning.

But let me not get into the anti-reservation mode here. Many people have already done a very good job of articulating the problems with the scheme. This post is supposed to be more personal in nature. Many times during the last 1 month, I imagined about today, the final day when finally we will know that reservations are going to be implemented or they are not going to be implemented. I wondered what would happen in either case.

Suppose reservations are implemented, law is enacted, students are admitted (which is only a matter of time now), till what time will the protest go on? What happened after Mandal I ? Will people forget about everything and go ahead with their lives, probably a bit more cynical, a bit more bitter but they will go on nonetheless? Right? Will the war end with one battle lost?

And for a moment suppose if the battle was won, what would happen even then? Will the menace of reservation go away? Or every time when a short sighted politician will decide to bring up the issue, people will have to go on strike, start the protest again and likewise? Will the pro-quota people sit silently? Will that be a stable state of affairs?

And even more important is the question, if we won, if quotas didn't get implemented now, will we remember all the cries for primary, secondary education improvement that we make? Will we strive for finding the alternative ways of affirmative Action or leave that job for the government, the same government that we know has failed us again and again? And if we found out that it is not doing anything, will we come down on the streets?

These are the questions that I ask myself and I think everybody needs to ask herself. My heart tells me that irrespective of what happens now, it is a war that needs to be fought at a larger scale of time. If we lost this battle, it is only going to take longer. It is a long drawn struggle where the most difficult step is to show the otherside is that they are not on the otherside at all. We are supposed to be on the same side and strive for a better life. It is this war that is much more important for a country. Of course for a person with 60 years of lifetime, this may be irrelevant but this is what we need to start now, today. This is the morale of the story for me.

And so lest I forget, I have taken a vow. What it is I will not disclose but I hope it will keep reminding me that there is a war to be fought and battles to be won. My only appeal is, ask yourself those questions and prepare yourself for the struggle and join it in whatever way, whatever capacity you can. That is if you actually cared for the country at any point of time during the whole protest at all.

Today is a black day. It is difficult to see if it is a beginning or the end. I have made my choice. You make yours.

Monday, May 15

The Hindu - End of a love affair !

I am a sad man today.

Coming to Bangalore, one of the best things that I got introduced to was, The Hindu, newspaper. Apart from having a lot of quality content, what I liked most about it was its social and cultural commitment. It is a paper which feels so connected to things around it. After TOI, it felt good not to find front page covered with all the sensational news which 8 out of 10 times would be related to sex or women or something like that but with things more important. And good and informative articles on the editorial pages always forced me to think. I didn't always agreed with them but I found myself thinking about them and questioning my assumptions and believes. It was a healthy process.

Yesterday night I came to know about what all happened in Bombay with the medical students. The belligerent Arjun Singh was all over the news channels . But even after watching all that, I wanted to read it all in the next day's newspaper. There is a kind of satisfaction associated with print media that news chanels can never provide. So I waited for the Monday morning Hindu.

And look at today's Hindu (or try their website). The front page carries the news article about Arjun Singh's statement. That's it. No protests, no strike nothing. On page 12, you will find news about student's hunger strike but no clear mention of the strike called by IMA. I checked last 2 days' papers, the lathi charge in Bombay gets a mention in an article on page 12, no front page. On the page 3, the Bangalore Protest is covered but with no context to other protest reports.

I felt shocked and betrayed. This is the paper I trusted. To which I asked everybody to convert to. I do not expect them to always say things or express opinions that I agree to. But I assumed an honest attitude that is not afraid of belonging to some ideology but which is rational and balanced. They call themselves India's National newspaper. I think they need to wake up to the sensibilities of a lot more people before claiming that.

It is often that I have found useless articles on TOI front page while important news items completely missing. But then I know that TOI really believes that all the crap they publish is really the way to go. Hindu on the other hand carries a much more mature and respectful image. Such ommision coming from them can be nothing but intentional, motivated by political leanings. It wouldn't have felt bad if they had reported it and written in the editorial that this is nonsense. That way they would have left the choice of decision on me. But instead they chose to make that decision for me and block the news.

I am really heartbroken and sad today. I really am ! It is my apeal to everybody who reads Hindu, to please send a letter to the editor or atleast a note of dissent to let them know how you felt.

Saturday, May 13

अम्बर का छोटा सा टुकडा

(There is a window right behind where I sit in my office through which I can see a small patch of sky.)

मेरे पीछे की खिडकी मे रहने वाला,
अम्बर का छोटा सा टुकडा,
मुझसे बात किया करता है ।

सूरज की किरणों से तप कर,
श्याम वर्ण जब हो जाता तो,
अपने कुम्हलाये चेहरे पर,
फ़ूट फ़ूट रोया करता है ।

अम्बर का छोटा सा टुकडा,
मुझसे बात किया करता है ।

कभी कभी अपने संग अपनी,
चिर प्रेयसी वायु को ला कर,
फ़िर वितान मे छिप लज्जा से,
टुकुर टुकुर देखा करता है।

अम्बर का छोटा सा टुकडा,
मुझसे बात किया करता है ।

कभी जो धुन्धलाती शामों मे,
मन एकाकी सा हो जाता,
खोल पिटारे,ला कर तारे,
साथ मेरे खेला करता है।

अम्बर का छोटा सा टुकडा,
मुझसे बात किया करता है ।

पूछा नही कभी पर अक्सर,
ये सोचा करता मन ही मन,
कभी सुना होगा इसने भी,
मेघदूत का प्रणय निवेदन?
समझ सकेगा क्या ये अल्हड,
मूक वेदना मेरे मन की?
और कभी क्या झांकेगा ये,
दूर देश,उस घर की खिडकी ?
और कहेगा आतुर जन से,

दूर देश मे बसा अभागा,
तुमको याद किया करता है।
पास नही तुम हो तो मुझसे,
दिल का हाल कहा करता है।

मेरे पीछे की खिडकी मे रहने वाला,
अम्बर का छोटा सा टुकडा,
मुझसे बात किया करता है ।

Tuesday, May 2

आज मैं खो जाऊं कहीं !

पंख लग जायें मेरे, आज मैं उड जाऊं कहीं,
राह खो जायें सभी, मोड वो मुड जाऊं कहीं ।

हवाओं वक्त हुआ अब यहां से चलने का,
पडा रहा तो इस ज़मीं से जुड ना जाऊं कहीं ।

ना पानी डाल बुझा खाकज़दा शोलों को,
बने जो जान पर, फ़िर से दहक ना जाऊं कहीं ।

लो आग भर दो मेरे दिल मे, जलन आंखों मे,
मैं चार पल के सुकूं मे बहक ना जाऊं कहीं ।

किया है जब से घर सागर सी उनकी आंखों मे,
यही है डर मैं अभागा, छलक न जाऊं कहीं ।