Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Paid news"- deadly ramifications

After the fifteenth general elections to the Lok Sabha, in April-May 2009, one disturbing phenomenon of “paid news” came to fore, which entails payment by aspirant candidates to representatives of media companies for favourable coverage.

The inherent danger is that the reader of the publication or the viewer of the television programme fails to distinguish, if what comes to them is essentially an advertisement or independently produced news content. This is blatant corruption, undermining of democracy, fudging with facts and figures, threatening the transparency and ultimately exploiting the vulnerability of viewers/readers. This concept of “paid news” is not merely corruptive collusion of individual journalists and media companies, but with realization of its productive potential is has become all pervasive, structured and highly organized ‘crime’. Even, the Press Council of India has expressed serious concern over the issue. It has immediate twofold ramification, one it jeopardizes the functioning of an independent media in the country and second, it threatens the working of Indian democracy by influencing free and fair elections.

The press works on the principle of right to inform because the public has right to know. It is indubitable that the right of the public to accurate information must be protected. The judgment of a common person is highly influenced by what they see and hear. Unless explicitly mentioned, they take on the face value of news content. This vulnerability of the masses, in a country where still there is limited dexterity in deciphering the falsehood, is exploited in an organized manner. Does not that come under the ambit of crime? Who must be blamed when there is wrong choice of candidates in husting, due to misinformation, which would be reflected finally in the nation’s growth and development. Is just describing the “paid news” as unethical, unfair and an infringement of the right of journalists to report freely, enough. When this trend of “planting” information and views, in lieu of favours in kind and cash, has widespread and perilous consequence to the sovereignty of nation, then why not come out with some stringent act to penalize heavily on the colluding perpetrators.

I am wondering if the issue dies down its unnatural death, after some discussions in electronic media and articles in print. The agony is that to keep alive the issue we need the assistance of the team, which is actually neck deep into this lucrative trade. As citizens, how equipped we are to pick the cudgels and fight for our right is to be seen.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Choice of course is not yours!

Was wondering, what should be my stand when I read the news related to the 21 deaths in Maoist infested Bijapur district, of Chattisgarh. The news in HT (24/06/2010) mentioned the diarrhoea deaths owing to drinking of contaminated water. The district administration had miserably failed to transport medical facilities to these remote areas due to poor road connectivity and Maoist insurgency. The district administration, shamelessly, even went to the extent of suggesting the poor tribals to drink rainwater as an alternative. Implicitly, it was admitted that providing immediate help was beyond their ken.

The question arises as to who should be blamed for this situation. Are the villagers paying the price for their own deeds of supporting the Maoist ideology, for providing them hideouts, giving logistical backup and safe passage to the naxalites. How much is the logic true that living under their shadow of terror, they have no other choice but to support these Maoists. Every now and then, threatening message is passed by cold-blooded murders of police informers.

So, should we let these villagers pay the price for their misdemeanour and left to the mercy of the Maoists, who promise to fight for their better future? Is it ethical on the part of the villagers to expect from the government to provide services of basic amenities at their doorstep, when they do not think twice before supporting heinous act like butchering of State’s armed forces?

In response to these instant surges of emotions, I realised that the most important aspect of the issue, which has been left out, is the duties and responsibilities of the “State” to prevent the human right violations and to provide security to its citizens at all cost. As a State, there is no room for bargain when it comes to delivering of services. The State by its very existence is duty bound to provide security and services. This responsibility is indisputable and cannot be shirked on any pretext.

The ongoing situation has revealed that one of the greatest challenges faced by the State in coming days is to re-establish the government institutions and strengthen the local governance, effectively promoting a sense of state ownership amongst the villagers and victims of conflict. Non-presence of State machinery will further alienate the masses and corroborate the claim of subversive groups. It will be loss-loss situation for the government. In fact, the genesis of the rebellious movement has been due to exploitation, and negligible outreach of the government’s projects.

Does not a casual remark, howsoever logically made, stokes the feeling of neglect? I think when there are forces working overtime to undo the States best practices, State machinery will have to tread very cautiously, taking into consideration the vulnerability of the target group. Every death due to laxity of the district administration will add to the score of Naxalites and toughen the situation for State.

(Priyanka and Veerendra)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do we have any share in road accidents

This summer, it seems all record of traffic accident deaths has been broken. In case of four and more wheeled casualties, the maximum victims have been either marriage partygoers or the pilgrims. Another contributor to the loss of lives has been two wheelers. The deaths due to murders is many times less than traffic accident deaths in our country, but surprisingly road accidents do not find enough attention as murders do, in the news. For a family death is a permanent loss to the family.

In my personal opinion, State’s responsibility lies more in case of traffic death than murder. In the former it is direct failure on part of the State to contain the cause of deaths, whereas in latter case, except for few situations where State has direct role to play in prevention, like in riots, protests etc, to proactively prevent personal vengeance motivated attacks is little dicey. Giving protection to all threatened individuals is not practically feasible, though on papers it may be claimed.

Some excerpt of an interesting study is given below to show the situation in our country.

In a dubious distinction for the country, the World Health Organization has revealed in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety that more people die in road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world, including the more populous China.

It said 90% of deaths on the world's roads occur in low and middle-income countries (21.5 and 19.5 per lakh of population, respectively) though they have just 48% of all registered vehicles.

At least 13 people die every hour in road accidents in the country, the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau reveals. In 2007, 1.14 lakh people in India lost their lives in road mishaps — that’s significantly higher than the 2006 road death figures in China, 89,455.

Road deaths in India registered a sharp 6.1% rise between 2006 and 2007. We don't have scientific traffic engineering. The report pointed to speeding, drinking-driving and low use of helmets, seat belts and child restraints in vehicles as the main contributing factors.

In 2004, road accidents was the top ninth cause of death in 2004. Calling road fatalities an "epidemic" that will become the world's fifth biggest killer by 2030, the report said.

Above report mentions that speeding, drinking-driving, low use of helmets, seatbelts and child restraints in vehicles as main contributing factors. All mentioned causes are never addressed in our driving skills. Does that mean that they are not part of the Motor Vehicle Act. The reality is that MVA is quite an exhaustive act. Sadly, the implementation, enforcement part is abysmally poor.

The basic traffic sense is missing amongst the vehicle drivers and other road users. There is no common rule to abide (as presumed). We think it is the duty of others to protect us. Neither we, as pedestrians, know how to walk on roads nor as drivers have any clue what rules of traffic act governs us.

I remember that when in Kosovo, my friend had grandly celebrated when she had got her driving license. She had failed two times before acquiring the license. It was mandatory to carry training certificate from driving school, pass written exam and then clear the road test. Even interview was part of the selection procedure. We make mockery of existing system in our country. For us our touts pass the procedures. We have to simply loosen our kitty and dole out fixed amount.

The major duty of KPS, Kosovo Police Service officers was vehicle checking. They checked the vehicle according to the act, right from license to availability of all accessories in the vehicle, which the act mentioned. That included smallest thing like tow rope, triangle red fluorescent signal to alert the passing vehicle when vehicle broke down etc. They were very strict in law enforcement. No driver above the alcohol limits was handed over the key back.

The report above clearly states that in western countries the death toll has come down over the years, where as we are showing constant growth. Is our enforcement agency ready and equipped to carry on the mandate of traffic rules. When I say ready and equipped it includes mindset, knowledge, logistics, morale, grit and honesty. I personally doubt it.

I also remember when some 13 odd children of the country (Kosovo) had died when their vehicle fell in a valley. The state had announced an official mourning. Yesterday, I was sarcastically kidding with my friend remembering that incident that if we start doing the same in our country, no State will be able to hoist their flags to full mast, ever.

Has our sensitivity died. Is this indifference a strategic move to cover up our weakness or despite all sincere efforts we have failed to civilize. Passing on the buck to any institution for this failure would be unethical. The truth is that those institutions too are manned by one of us. We are the victims, we are the perpetrators, we are the law makers and law enforcers too. No soul is going to come from heaven to put our house in order. We will have to take responsibility to educate and act. Let us pray together for the lost souls and ensure no more is lost.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Does number do magic for death

We are in a habit of crying on spilled milk. Proactive prevention has never been our forte. What our apathy may cost, in life, has been manifested in Bhopal Gas tragedy, but still we refuse to correct ourselves. The country is outraged over the governments and factory owners indifference and collusion, demanding for their neck. What has been the check-mate move of the activist is the number of casualty. Some casually remark as 15,000 life lost and some do not mind reporting 25000. The number variation is beyond logic.
Is the importance of life counted in numbers. We are so used to daily casualty figures in two digit numbers in newspapers that unless three digit figure appear it does not catch our attention. Ask the person who has lost his dear and near ones. Every death is death for a while of the whole family of five (average) and permanent damage to some in them. If given a try, it is damn tough task to help make one life worth living. But, hardly our heads turn twice on hearing death of one.

Todays news reported 'One more petrol pump caught fire in Bhopal'. Last year, luckily, major casualty was saved in an accident when one petrol pump had caught fire in the heart of city, next to busiest market of the capital. What precautions are we taking. When are the corrective agencies wake up to the call and ensure adherence to guidelines. It is an irony that Bhopal is reeling under protests against Gas tragedy verdict, and not much has been written against this accident. Let us not wait to gather only when numbers stimulate our senses. We want safe and quality life, and the concerned agencies is bound to give that to us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Repent-less murder

Yesterday, on 12 June, 2010, most of the newspaper in Bhopal carried a news about father hacking to death his five daughters. Today as follow-up to this heinous crime, it mentioned how the culprit-father remorselessly accepted the crime.. He claimed that in his dreams Lord Hanuman asked for sacrifice of his children, and the crime was in adherence to his command.
'The Week' few weeks back had carried a story about women being tormented for witchcraft...
Baba's are having field day, in flesh, money and material, under the garb of spiritual heroism.
Couple of years back, suddenly there was spurge in senior officers being drawn into transvestism in love with God....
In every action mentioned above, spirituality has been stretched to crime. The last example, as such, would not directly tantamount to crime, but I willing would like to tag it as crime because as civil servant, they made mockery of society, they failed to deliver to tax payers who are responsible for their salary, they violated the spirit of secularism of constitution by acting in public and divided the society into sectarian conflicts by personal action.

Over the years I have seen that our country has been deluged with spiritual guru's and their market is not affected by meltdown-recession in economy. With the increase in sense of insecurity in society, with shooting graph of crime, with rising corruption, and increase in unethical activities, desire for support from the almighty has increased. Materialism and spirituality, which sociologists would say do not go together, are flourishing in support, moving hand in hand, juxtaposed to each other.

It is high-time when new theory has to be evolved to explain the new trend. Can someone suggest how this perversion in the name of religion, spirituality can be controlled.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Canine v/s Humans: who is in danger


Canine v/s Humans: who is in danger

Bark, bark, bark, bark………….” The boys who had gathered for early morning game of soccer, suffering from world cup fever, ran helter-skelter to save from dogs, barking and occupying their space. It was struggle for dominance for couple of moments. The boys, recollected, picked a stone each and charged the dogs, to fly far into all corners of the ground of Char Imli, the residential area of the powerful in the capital, Bhopal. The poor dogs, some snarling putting meek opposition before retreating and rest dropping tail between legs, yielded to the human dominance and left the place. However, the eyes of vengeance shined in the dogs. I was wondering who actually owned the space when a dog, galloping breezed by, kissing my legs. I jumped three feet making a bridge for it to pass unbridled. I had found the answer. My sympathy towards the canine was lost with the gush of adrenalin in my body, by this sudden run over, concluded that we were in danger. Even morning walks, a must to diabetics, a prescription for all to keep fit in this competitive world, was at stake due to these ruthless dogs, who cared for none but themselves. We were in danger and something wants to be done to contain the dogs-I felt.

This compelled me to dig into my memories.

First came the recent statement of the Bhopal district administration, which advocated the vasectomy of the dogs, to check the growing population. I doubt if the statement has been transpired into action, yet.

Nevertheless, the flashback that followed put me in a foreign land, Kosovo, a country born from former Yugoslavia. I think what I am about to describe is going to be looked upon by animal lovers as vulgar and criminal act, but in Kosovo it was a normal feature and justified by authorities. Canine Culling in Kosovo was a full fledged operation initiated by the respective municipality in their Area of Responsibility (AOR). Stray dogs were considered as menace and police stations registered religiously all complaints and reports about the threat posed by stray dogs, to the kids in specific and community at large. Intermittently the calls used to pour in at police stations and the record of the cases registered was promptly sent to the municipality for action. There was a department within the municipality, which was responsible for killing those stray dogs and the logistical and expert assistance came from the hunting unit of municipality.

Police had an important role to play at all phases, right from the registration of complaints to implementation stage of killing. Regional police headquarter was given the information from the municipality about their decision, method to be adopted and the time of operation of killing of dogs. Every day in the morning chief of operation’s briefing incorporated precise description of area chosen for operation in the forthcoming days and about the dogs killed in previous night action. Before action, the affected area was informed through newspaper about the killing and police media liaison officer was responsible for proper dissemination of information to the public. All the concerned police stations were intimated about the operation plan and were vested with follow up duties. The reason for police getting involved was to ensure that there was no panic in the area on hearing gun shots in the darkness of night, as the country was strife torn and that the community was prepared mentally for the noise pollution in the mid night. Also it helped the citizens to save their pets by restricting them from loitering on the streets in the night, which otherwise could become an accidental prey of shooters.

One day in the meeting a dog menace complaint was mentioned. The complaint was that, a pet had barked at a passerby and even tried to bite him. To this impromptu came the decision of the regional commander, a German, that the municipality authorities should be directed to kill-shoot- the accused dog. We laughed taking it as joke but he was serious and directed his KPS (Kosovo Police Service) counterpart to take necessary action and report him about the compliance in next day’s morning briefing. He sounded like a judge giving verdict of capital punishment, to a criminal who had committed a crime of attempt to bite. Logic, the dog was a threat to mankind and beyond control of owner hence didn’t deserve to live.

The same time during my stay there, while chatting with my wife, I was told that our six-year-old son was bitten by a dog in India. It was in fact a pet and not a stray dog. Before I had left for Kosovo, he was attacked by a stray dog. We had moaned and got him injected and forgot it as an accident.

I think like today the stray dogs could be seen anywhere and everywhere. Dogs chasing two wheeler and bicycles are common feature and it doesn’t set any alarm ring. Even the statistics of more than 15 million, reported and treated, dog bites every year in our country do not tickle our grey matter. I don’t remember if ever, our ever alert municipality took pains to provide relief from the dogs. Our tolerance power had increased to such heights that we don’t get bothered by these trivial matters. They become part and parcel of our life and we adjust life style accordingly, expecting nothing from any department. The value of mankind is well below that of stray dogs. I think action against dogs may attract lot more flak and criticism from many corners than an attack on human beings or killing by dog. Some time back I had read in a newspaper that stray dogs had taken half the body of a new born baby from a government hospital. Still it is a common scene to find scores of dangerous canines wielding their ferocious teeth just outside maternity ward.

In two weeks action, in Prishtina (capital region), around 600 dogs were killed. On a discussion with some high ranking officer about the dog killing action, they justified it by saying that apart from direct threat of biting, dogs were also the cause of many accidents of fast moving vehicles on highways.

Few weeks back, I had heard Chief Medical Officers of districts complaining that the supply of medicines against dog-bite has run out of stock, due to excess flow of patients.

Now it is a subject of debate for us to ascertain, if it is our apathetic attitude; shirking from responsibility or we are too sensitive towards animals and insensitive towards our own mankind? I don’t recommend canine culling but is it not fare enough to adopt means to check the growing population of dogs, move them from residential area, make hospitals no-entry zone for them and reduce the threat to mankind. Let us not get violent against dogs, but please let us save our children and ourselves. Culling would is not advocated in any sense, but doing nothing is also not appreciated.

Well, all said and done…….. this is one part of the story. I as human being had the space and intelligence to put across my view. Do these pitiful dogs have any forum to complain? I wish I could understand their ‘bark’ as Dr Dolittle. Then objectively I would have discerned who is actually in danger.

Gassed again


Gassed again

The poisonous MIC (Methyl Isocyanite) gas is still looming large in the air of Bhopal. Will it not be correct to say that it has diffused into the atmosphere of the country? The verdict on the Union Carbide case has exhumed the buried corpses and put them back on road, alive, crying for justice. These lifeless bodies are further mutilated, pained by reality of our impotency to fight against the few, who master in manipulating and maneuvering situation to their gain. We as so called active citizens of this one of the largest democratic country, wail, yell, make our presence noticed and like always rest, for the next issue to wake us up.

In the recent past it has been the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack, Senior policeman’s molestation case, Khap panchayats annihilating verdicts and many more which has provided the much needed fodder to charge us. There is no dearth of issues to keep us on the go, furnish us space in the newspaper coloumns, TV channels, road protests burning effigies, blocking traffic and pelting stones on hapless lower echelon policemen; and at the end of the day unwind sipping masala tea/coffee and mull over next move. I don’t say that our actions don’t hold water. They have left indelible impact on issues where our political masters have felt that it would help them reap a good crop. I don’t want to get into the dirty game of enlisting the cases, as that doesn’t need excellent intellectual rating to decipher. They are vividly written on the wall.

The question is what next. Are we going to bury again those woken up corpses, mummy them, after making ado about this sensitive issue. Or, would put flesh in those skeletal remains and punish all who have connived with perpetrators. Are we going to say straight, as Indian citizens that the tragedy is not a political issue to struggle for mileage. Let us clean our house and throw the garbage, irrespective of which room it comes from.

I helplessly, again as mute spectator, am sitting pondering, speculating, what lies ahead.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Facade of Honour Killing

Even today two cases of honour attack has been reported from Meerut. In one case the girl has been dead and in second she is recuperating in ICU. Pathetically, the perpetrator in both cases has been their father. The question is, if the honour killing is a fashion in vogue or have been existing ever since the existence of civilization. Has the media brought glaring societal anomaly to fore or just it is some crime, as any other, reported.
Whatever the cause and effect, means and end, the incidents of honour killing has highlighted the fact that we are still living in medieval age. We may boast of being technological leaders of the world, but honestly our mindset is still bitten by the rules of yesteryears. The Khap Panchayats, which has found support in many politicians, as expected for the vote bank, has grown in power after getting publicity. It has worked as a binding force, cutting across the region, state, language, caste and class boundaries. When the time was ripe for the government to take stern action, we find them dilly dallying, lest alienating the crucial vote bank.
I just wonder when we will grow beyond the short sightedness and think nationally. I think we have limited the definition of patriotism to shouting slogan "Jai Hind", or singing vandematram, or national anthem or saluting half-heartedly, perforce, the tri-colour. I pray we start thinking beyond this gestures.
Let everybody voice against the social evils and unite.