Whither Development!

Renowned sociologist and scientist Prof.Yashpal was in town few days back. He is one of the few people who have the straight-forwardness to oppose the education and examination system in India. “Education is not about cramming, you cannot learn science by mugging equations, you have to touch it to get the feel”, said the Professor. An amazing point that emerges out of the views of many Indian sociologists is about the pseudo development notion that we have here and the ironies that it exposes. We have built highways in the name of development having failed connecting the villages. What is in 2020 we really become a developed nation, as projected? Will every village have a school and roads to reach that by then? Will people striving for employment not torch Bihar and Assam then? Such questions have difficult answers. I will be posting some views of another socialist thinker on this in a coming post.

Bhopal: The struggle goes on

It's been 19 years since the Lethal Methyl Isocyanate gas from Union Carbide (now Dow Chemicals) struck disaster at Bhopal, the worst ever industrial havoc in the history of mankind. Images such as the one here had shook the whole world as more than 20 thousand peopel have lost their lives and more than a lakh suffer from the after-effects of the poisen. Bhopal.netI remember that most of the area of new Govindpura where we lived then was unaffected but most of the old Bhopal was. It was a panicky morning the following day. The adjoining main road near our BHEL colony house was brimming with people fleeing with whatever little they could gather with them, on trucks, tractors and what not. My father had meanwhile managed to get some bread and butter from the grocery and we were planning to leave too when the radio started reassuring people that the danger has been partially averted. And while the then CM Arjun Singh was said to be on the spot while the containers were neutralized later at Carbide factory, a similar exodus occurred on that day too. I was too young then to decipher the ground situations. 19 years hence the realities have not really changed.

In almost two decades of victim's struggle for the justice people have been left hopeless with hundreds loosing their life every year owing to eye, lung and heart problems. The case of the gas victims has been one of callous delays and wrangling between Indian and US courts over damages and medical care. Media reports say that after 1992 the government had stopped registering death cases owing to the gas-leak. There are a staggering 50 thousand cases pending with Rs.1500 crores of relief money languishing under the greedy eyes of the bankrupt state government. A local newspaper has recently said a very valid thing about our “East India company mentality”. The kins of WTC disaster have reportedly been compensated with amounts exceeding Rs.8 crores per casualty within the time span of a year, on the contrary there is the case of Bhopal disaster where the victims have been fighting for meager compensation amounts of Rs.1 lacs or less. In the light of global consumerism and open markets it seems the commercial concerns override those for human feelings. The central government is bothering about investments from big corporations and bowing under the pressures of the centres of money and power at the US for their own selfish motives while the state government wants to pocket the whole settlement amount using the middlemen and burocratic red tape.

I can only hope that such a disaster should never ever happen again. This TOI report, that says that “..with growing public awareness, corporates otherwise indifferent to damage caused to the environment and human lives (are) now taking corrective measures.” adds some strength to my belief.

Blogs of Earth

It was a pleasant surprise to find a blog with an Indian name by a foreigner. While the author Awacante has evidently stopped blogging today on one of his other blog only he has a blog (infact a travelogue) called Namaste (Hello in Hindi). The author had visited India in 2000, perhaps as a volunteer to the Missionaries of Charity at Calcutta, and was inspired enough to chose an Indian name for his blog. In one of his posts titled the “Sikhs” he wonders why most of the Sikh names end with a “Singh” and provides an interesting pointer to various types of turbans. His blogs has interesting accounts of how he was charged 5 times more (Rs.85 for a trip between Paharganj and Cannaught place) by the auto-rickshaw guys at Delhi and how he learnt to behave like Indians and managed to pay the right fare of Rs.15. Recognizing the tea-craziness of India the author says his consumption of tea has also increased dramatically. I also came across this nice site (though I could read very little of it) on India Indojuku by a Japanese, the catch line says “Hum dharti ke niwasi aapka swagat karte hain” (we the residents of this earth welcome you). What a nice way to emphasize the feeling of universal brother hood!