Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The New Hullabaloo Over the Civil Service Exam

Courtesy news media, it has surfaced  that certain sections of UPSC aspirants have demanded a roll back of the newly introduced curriculum of UPSC Civil Service Examination, especially the C-SAT.
It has been alleged by the protesters that the new exam pattern is detrimental to the interest of Hindi Medium candidates, which is rather unfounded.

Here is why-

Purpose of the Change-
Ø  Bureaucratic reforms have been felt to be a long standing necessity.

Ø  In rapidly changing global scenario, it was felt by experts, reforms in recruitment and training process would be harbinger of improvement in the quality of service. Of course, improvements in the procedures of public service is also another area of concern.

Ø  However, to appreciate the changing needs and bring about paradigm changes in service concepts, such people are required who are themselves dynamic, and skilled to face the challenges ahead in the changing time. Therefore, change was deemed necessary at recruitment and training stage.

Ø  The experts therefore, one thinks, developed a new or rather improved framework after much deliberation.

Ø  The pattern of exam sought to test candidates’ knowledge, understanding and aptitude in newly relevant topics such as environment, sustainable development, and public administration from a perspective of accountable public service.

Ø  It further stressed importance on candidates’ ability of application of knowledge in a considerably diverse range of subjects, rather than bulk of information or rote learning.

Issues regarding the changes-
Ø  However, there arose some issues of contention immediately after the new scheme was declared. In the process of changes, UPSC proposed to do away with such language mediums which were opted by very few numbers of candidates in the mains exam.

Ø  Their logic was to eliminate chances of dubious practices.

Ø  And UPSC further wanted to count the score of candidates in English Language.

Ø  However, it was alleged as detrimental to the interest of non-English medium background candidates.

Ø  In face of the protest, UPSC partly rolled back the proposal and in the finally introduced scheme, both English and one Indian Language paper, were designed to be merely of qualifying nature. And candidates were allowed to write the exam in their preferred medium as earlier.

Ø  In the preliminary exam, UPSC did away with the old scheme of one General Studies paper and one Optional Paper of rather academic nature, and instead came up with one General Studies Paper and one Aptitude paper.

Ø  The Paper 2, i.e. the aptitude test consisted of many things including basic numeric, mental & reasoning ability, decision making ability which often refers to practical situations a civil servant would face, communication & comprehension skills and basic English language.

Ø  It may be noted that all the questions, except those to test English language skills, in the aptitude paper including comprehension and communication skills are set in both English and Hindi.

Ø  The idea is to test the aptitude one should possess to be a twenty first century civil servant. The Communication & comprehension test is designed to test such skills in whichever of the languages the candidates are comfortable with, not necessarily English.

Ø  The questions of English language section are of course set in English. But numbers of such questions set to test specifically English language skill of candidates have been only  9/80 (2011), 8/80  (2012) and 8/80 (2013) in three years. It may be noted that in other exams like Bank POs, and even in exams like SSC Graduate Level exam meant to fill up posts in middle & lower civil service the proportion is 50/200.

Ø  Hence the allegation of elitist bias against non-English medium candidates is clearly unfounded.

Ø  It has been alleged, as reported in media, by the protesters that between 2005 and 2010, nearly 15% successful candidates in the elite services were from Hindi background that has been reduced to 2.3% in 2013.” And also that "In 2013, of the total 1,122 successful civil service candidates merely 26 are from Hindi-medium background".

Ø  However this might be more due to lack of aptitudes, and those skills regarding dynamic application of knowledge that experts and UPSC deemed necessary requisites for a new age civil servant.

Ø  The old system was reviewed because it was not giving desired results, and after experts’ deliberation the reform was introduced to weed out the chaff from the wheat.

Ø  If the reform would give the same result then what is the point of reform other than mere rhetoric?

Ø  Yes, of course the purpose should be having an efficient bureaucracy and not merely to eliminate people.

Ø  And considering the protests UPSC had already come up with a two year relaxation ( 6 attempts in place of 4, and consequently 32 years in place of 30 years ) in eligibility condition when it notified Civil Service Exam 2014, understandably for a temporary measure for 2-3 years from now. Which means, while UPSC wants specific skills ( which is not only language as it is alleged by a section ), it also understands the problems of candidates in such threshold period and hence have given them ample time of two more years to adopt, acquire and hone such skills.

Ø  Hence the complaints are baseless and in a way reflect the general status quo aversion to any kind of reform.

Ø  It may also be noted that any further change would also pose newer complications to candidates, as any change requires a minimum time to adjust. There have already been three CSATs and one Main examination in the new pattern.

Ø  Since Civil Service preparation takes time any new change will further upset the interest of those candidates who have been slowly but steadily adjusting themselves to the new scheme, rather than complaining about it. Again reverting to the old would frustrate many candidates left with marginal attempts as well as new candidates.

Ø  After all, arrangements may be and have been made, in terms of attempt and age limit,  so that the old order can adjust with the new.

Ø  But rolling back the system, as demanded by a section of people, would be arranging for the new order to relapse in the old.

Ø  It would also give the impression that the concerned authority had budged under majoritarian interest of Hindi medium candidates over that of all other candidates from different backgrounds in different states across India, rather than upholding the promises of new age governance.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Don't turn your own home to inferno

Under the hue & cry over the Magrahat firing several sensible questions are intentionally subdued, by our politicos, top brass of administration & the human rights folks:

1.Even if it's presumed that those "villagers" had applied for electric connection and yet didn't get it ( which the politicos are stressing much ), does it simply give them license to hook the cables?

2.If such naturalisation of criminal activities into the mainstream of society are so openly admitted, does not it state the poor state of our society only and further encourage people to contribute to its aggravation rather than motivating them to improve it? Acknowledging inadequacies and giving legitimacy to do anything to adjust that inadequacy are two different things after all.Accepting the need of a public toilet in a locality and allowing people to urinate in public on that ground are not the same things.Better societies have worked on it, we legitimised urinating, and the result is there.Better societies are better societies and we, simply us.

3.Why the case of police firing is being muddled with the case of electricity? If the villagers really applied for electricity and didn't get it for no faults of theirs, then it must be found out whose fault was there. But, why targeting the police?The cops after all didn't initiate the operation against power stealth, the electricity department initiated it.The cops simply went there as third party agents, to provide security to govt. officials..If they failed to protect them, who would bear the responsibility?

4.And though Mamata's heart evidently cries for those villagers, the cops may ask her how to understand that a mob that hurl bricks and bombs to govt. officials including cops are actually naive villagers, her brothers & sisters.

5.And while an enquiry should be made to check whether there was any fault on the part of electricity officials for absence of electricity in those villages for so long, Mamata must also answer what she implied when she said they should avoid excess.Excess?! when the company ails under finacial burden and she doesn't allow them to enhance tariff and herself suggested to take steps against illegal connections and stealth. How to achieve that? She says in humane way, by convincing the people.Convincing the madcaps of Magrahat? ....well perhaps the govt. officials should fast on Id from now on, as she has started to do recently.

One just wishes that Mamata overcomes her utopian ambitions.Or else one sees a future, maladministered ( administration-less actually) and chaotic, to collapse on these very people of power; by then perhaps their own authority will loose legitimacy, so will the agencies supposed to protect them; Better not to turn you own home to inferno.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Judging a Judgement?

Recently Professor David Cole of Georgetown University has written a thought provoking op-ed article in New York Times . The article questions the approach which branded the acts by Michael Mukasey, Rudolf Giuliani and France Townsend, all formerly associated with the highest echelon of US governance, as criminal act, a felony as stated by some. Actually, this trio, at a recently held conference in Paris, talked in support of Mujahedeen Khalq, a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ as labelled by the US Government. As the government stance goes that material support to such organization is not confined within financing them or providing them with support by means of other ‘tangible aids’, but extends also to making public speech which is likely to act as a moral booster to such organization or consolidates public support behind such organization. In other words any public display of any kind of association with such organizations, material or moral, actually consolidates such organizations’ support base, materially and tangibly and is thus prohibited under the US law.

Professor Cole, a legal expert himself, has long been advocating for human rights and here again he raises the debate about the right of people or groups which work for upholding the rights of the members of such off stream organizations. In the process he traces out examples from American legal history to prove the merit of his argument. We are neither legal experts as Mr. Cole, nor are we Americans. But, the issues raised by Professor Cole have some universal value. It will be clear if we leave the American context and to borrow a Deridaean term, ‘deconstruct’ his article, to construct our idea or understanding of what all the fuss is about a verdict recently pronounced by a sessions court in Chattisgarh, India, a place surely far away from US or Paris.

The verdict given by some learned judge of the session’s court in Raipur has recently been a point of focus for the media, local and also global, as the members of civil society are visibly upset with the judgement. The judgement pronounces one Mr. Binayak Sen guilty in charge of sedition and sentences him lifetime imprisonment. Now who this Binayak Sen is? As reported by the media and his colleagues Mr. Sen is a qualified medical practitioner; he passed out of one of India’s best medical colleges. But instead of relishing the butter which he could have easily made with his Paediatrics degree, as believed by many, he found bliss in sharing his bread with the poor, the left behind mass of Chattisgarh. He had been vigorously working towards the betterment of their lives at that infamous, nowadays notorious for ultra-left wing militant groups, corner of the country until he was arrested. Apart from serving the poor in his capacity as a medical practitioner he widened his domain of service to human rights activities and the like. He raised his voice challenging the very legitimacy of Salwa Judum, a so called anti-terrorist group, privately and dubiously managed and sponsored, reportedly, by the state, perhaps at a time when only a handful of people outside Chattisgarh were aware about the existence of such a savage and brutal mercenary raised, again reportedly, by the state. However, the Chattisgarh Government put charges of sedition against him, and the court found them sufficient to pronounce him guilty to such extent that it awarded him with the maximum penalty sanctioned for such a crime under legal provisions, a lifer. So far what can be deciphered from media reports, the court found the facts that Dr. Sen had frequently visited an elderly Maoist leader in jail, and passed a letter from him to another Maoist operative in Kolkata to be tantamount to sedition.

This shocked many, who knew Dr. Sen personally or somehow came to know about his selfless deeds. Almost the whole civil society, across political or ideological lines have come in Dr. Sen’s support and condemned the verdict. According to them Mr. Sen has never ever advocated violence leave alone himself resorting to it, nor did he support the Maosists. Among them are many high profile intellectuals like Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, whose commitment to democratic values are well known, Ramachandra Guha, the noted social historian and commentator of our time, to name just a few. Dr. Sen’s former as well as present colleagues are also seen in solidarity with him and support for Dr. Sen is flooding also the internet via online petitions and appeals. But to whom actually are these petitions being or intended to be sent? Bibek Debroy, another noted social scientist who somehow is maintaining some distance from the majority on this issue, has raised this question. In his article titled National Autocratic Council , Mr. Debroy has put his logics one by one. He in his article stresses that most of the people who are reacting to the judgement have not gone through the verdict; he is rather confident that none actually has gone through the verdict. As he says, most of them are reacting to the information made available by the media and other such agencies. Thus, the critics of the judgement are disqualified outright by Mr. Debroy. Secondly, he insists that since there is a systematic and tested judicial structure, one, if not content with a particular judgement, should follow the proper channel, of appealing before a higher court. If someone or some group, instead of seeking justice at the right door opts for media trials or other such platforms to upheld their or Dr. Sen’s democratic rights, that act itself in a way illustrates scepticism about a legitimate institution within the dynamics of democracy and the various layers of process it involves, and thus, Mr. Debroy opines, amounts to disrespecting democratic ethos. Thus, the commitment to democracy of all those who are advocating for Mr.Sen and criticising the verdict, have been questioned by Mr. Debroy. Besides, he also reminds us that one might have served the society in exemplary way, but that neither qualifies him as ‘incapable’ of committing a crime at any point of time, nor does it make him immune to law, if he commits one.

Mr. Debroy and some other people sharing his view have recommended measures following proper procedure rather than allowing the issue to be sensationalised by the media or getting carried away by such sensation. All these logics hold good to some extent. Indian media has recently earned something which cannot be termed as good repute in its handling of various issues. There remains a question whether such kind of media activism is really effective in sustaining the cause or it only helps the media houses earn more TRP, particularly so when it receives encouragement and support from such big names from the intelligentsia. In this regard, what automatically comes to mind was the lines written by Ramachandra Guha in his famous article The Arun Shourie of The Left : “Celebrity endorsement of social movements is always fraught with hazard. In the beginning, it may attract media attention, and draw to the cause previously silent bystanders. However, the media will soon abandon the cause for the star, and the converts will soon return to their humdrum lives.” In that particular article he also accused Arundhati Roy of being more sentimental in her approach than logical. Interestingly enough, in his more recent article Not to Question Why he gave a very touchy account of how Binayak Sen, under the inspiration of the maverick socialist and activist Sankar Guha Niyogi, plunged into social work among the downtrodden and often displaced people of Chattisgarh. Being acquainted with Dr. Sen’s work for long, he too, in this case might have been a bit sentimental, when he came to know about the punishment imposed on him, instead of the recognition and reward that should be bestowed upon the selfless man he knew. But, he has not cited sufficient reason as to how the charges against Dr. Sen could be proved void. As a matter of fact, one cannot be sure whether the petitioners are asking for a waiver on the ground of Dr. Sen’s positive contributions or credentials; or whether they have detected any error or are smelling any foul play associated with this particular judgement by a particular judge; or whether they are really sceptical about the potential of Indian judiciary to deliver justice as a whole. Mr. Guha and Mr. Amartya Sen, however have a credential of respecting both the system of democracy and its organs to the utmost. So what calls for writing such articles or making public statements on their parts? Instead of being judgemental about a judgement of a learned judge, which few of us dare venture into, partly because of our lack of legal knowledge in general and partly because of the fear of committing a contempt of court, or questioning the wisdom of persons involved in the debate from either side, we better try to understand both the viewpoints.

People condemning the judgement have not, at least publicly, showed their scepticism about the judicial process in general. They mostly questioned or expressed their astonishment on how a mere acquaintance or association with someone considered as a Maoist can amount to a crime or how somebody who never directly contributed to Maoist violence or incited it can be branded a criminal or an anti-national, if he just supports the Maoist ideology, if we presume for that matter that Dr. Sen did so though his supporters have staunchly rejected even such a conjecture. People criticising the judgement are perhaps criticising the law on which such judgements are based. Such laws in the present context of our country, world’s largest democracy as we often refer to it, have long been viewed as ‘draconian’ and ‘outdated’ by the Indian intelligentsia. Of course, people directly involved in governance often advocate the necessity of such laws in light of what they call their pragmatic view. The verdict in concern has actually offered us a scope to sharpen this debate as we enter this new decade. Such laws are of course not created by the judges but our politicians. So merely criticising a judgement would not definitely serve any purpose effectively. But such movements if gains the optimum momentum, will undeniably consolidate public awareness that in turn, who knows someday may manage to bring about some positive change in the broader policy. And despite the negative character attributed to the media, no one can deny their role in building mass awareness in N number of cases from the Jessica Lal case, or Priydarshini Matto case to the more recent Ruchika Girhotra case. Besides, though no one is questioning about the efficiency of our judicial system in general, one must admit that judges are also human beings and hence subject to error and sometimes even follies. Despite the fact that we have a strong and sustainable judicial system, one has to admit of the loopholes in it and the existence of ‘Black sheep’ within the judiciary to quote none other than K G Balakrishnan, the former Chief Justice of India. And there remains the enormous scope for the media to function, not by judging the cases themselves but by creating mass awareness about the present legal structure of the country, the relevance of various laws and policies in contemporary context and the issue of judicial accountability. Yes, the sensationalizing aspect remains there. But one cannot and should not just snub the impact of media for that matter.

As for keeping the media ethics as well as our democratic rights high, we are looking forward for such erudite people as Mr. Amartya Sen, Mr. Guha, Mr. Debroy and the like, who are very well aware of the process in which different agencies of democracy function and should function. Instead of getting drifted to either extreme ourselves, let us watch them debate and try to gather a little bit wisdom for ourselves in the course of this great democratic process. Let this dialogue lead us to the avenue of a better democracy.

All said, the general Indian wish at this juncture, perhaps, is that all the praises made for Dr. Sen prove to be real and may he come out clean in some later judgement. That, though would put this specific judgement in question, will reaffirm every Indian’s faith in its judicial process, make them proud of their coveted democracy and will present before them a truly inspiring Indian alive, that to say if even the half of the praise bestowed upon Dr. Sen’s positive contributions are true. In contemporary India we really lack in such inspiring figures who devote themselves to light up the lives of its people in such a way.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Once Upon A Time in Mumbai....A Reel Adoption of the Real...Doesn't it leave scopes for such stories to be retold in reality again?

Recently there has been much hue and cry over the newly released movie ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbai’, with almost every critic going gaga on it. The movie and its protagonists with their grand attire and caricature, no doubt draw attention. Now that the critics understandably in their 30s or 40s will find nostalgic pleasure while sipping the flavour of so called Classy Seventies, is no wonder.

Image courtsey:

But, the question that should naturally arise is which shade of Classicism is actually reflected throughout the film. Yes, Ajay Devgan with his grand acting prow asserts masculinity silently yet elegantly. Emran Hasmi transmits vibration through the heart of the whole audience in his exercise of his volatile youth that, as history stands witness, often used to take resort to the depth of darkness prevalent at the then Bombay. Kangna sails through like a grand goose. And Randeep Hooda, excels in the role designated to narrate and connect the whole story. The cinematography, script and background score no doubt achieve the concerted success of making a fast flick that captures the era with both its darkness and glitter. One should not even mind the melodramatic aspect in dialogues, considering the time it portrays and the concept of life that these characters in all probability tended to believe in. Nevertheless, it’s a careful documentation of the lives that were born and seen from an angle ruled, if we forget the question of legitimacy, the era.

But, has this history not been told and retold a several times by now? Have we not been constantly fed by such Underworld stories for almost a decade now? One may argue, that though there have many such films they differ in treatment and presentation. Yes, they do. And of course some of them went to be huge box office success while some others could not see luck. Earlier, films like Vastav captured the rise of a gun tottering gangster, while Ram Gopal Verma’s Company documented a gangster’s journey to become a dreaded don. Further, Verma’s another flick Sarkar sought to legitimize a don’s dominance over the city by portraying him as a messiah. Similarly the film in question also deals with something different. It puts into document the rise of an orphan boy into the glittering darkness of Bombay Underworld, and then gradually proceeds to trace the change or diversion in the character of the dark world itself, where the business involves more than just smuggling a few articles and eventually engages mercenary professionalism and ruthlessness. And there is no denial that in the process it also advocates for the practice of at least a few morals or ethics, though the message may well be overshadowed by the apparent gloss and glitter of the world that the characters are shown to relish round the clock.

Yes all these films do something or the other than just flatly telling the story of a petty gangster. Sometimes they try to trace out the humane aspect in an evil character that automatically generates sympathy for them. Sometimes they impose such larger than life images on them that somehow establish their legitimacy and glorify them, often without the knowledge of the audience at their sub-conscious. One may argue, what’s wrong in that- in portraying the different shades that such people might be possessing? Well none is questioning the fact that even an evil character may well have some shades of humanity, he may well be a messiah for a section of people. Or that he ended up being a gangster by just the cruel play of fate. But, does it suffice as an explanation? He might have been a prey of destiny, but that doesn’t legitimize each and one man who has been deserted by destiny to become an outlaw. One may well be a messiah for a section, but still we must not forget that he has been branded an anti-social only because he violated certain social codes meant for the general welfare and stability of the society.

Yes, there is apparently no harm in documenting an era with all its reality, however bitter they be. But, the way they are being presented must be chosen with utmost care. If we go back into the film ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbai’ itself, it will be evident that it was the glamour of a smuggler that drew a young stallion into the murky business incidentally to make it murkier, more dreadful, more violent and devoid of the minimum morality that had been present there. That too in an age when the glamour was less magnified by visual and other sorts of media. Concern is the most automatic thing that should arise if we take a pause to see into the depth of darkness under the glitter of such movies, where may lie the potential danger, may be more dreadful than what was shown in the movie.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A scrutiny of the Mass’ism advocated by Chetan Bhagat

Image courtsey:
Recently I went through a lecture delivered by Chetan Bhagat at the leadership summit organized by Hindustan Times in 2008, from his official website. The following link leads to the text of the lecture- . After going through the lecture, as I analysed it in my own small way, I faced within me some serious questions regarding the philosophy Mr. Bhagat has been advocating for quite some time now, as reflected in some of his other lectures also. However, here I just attempt to express what I have managed to conclude focussing mainly on some points highlighted in the aforesaid lecture in specific.
As I proceed to do so I assume that people who have read this much have also gone through the body of the lecture delivered by Mr. Bhagat, following the link. Now, as we concentrate on the lecture, I would like to start by saying that it no doubt makes one introspect. And one thing I have also tried to remember that unless we don’t contribute positively, we should not criticise others. But I must say what Mr. Bhagat has done is to raise the issues, but the solution offered to the complex and diverse problems appear to be somehow linear, though I don’t want to snatch of him the honour supposedly deserved by him for raising the issues. But, I beg to differ in certain aspects........'I think it is cooler to know how people think in the streets of Indore and Raipur than who’s walking the ramp in South Mumbai. '.....That is indeed the optimum condition. But as reflected in Mr. Bhagat's own writing he, with the kind of literary gift he possesses, doesn't or, may be can’t reflect that life properly. What he actually does is to explore the vacuum in those people's lives and show the have nots a dream of a dreamy India. Well that is not a sin; besides this lecture is not directly related to his writings. But since he has quite explicitly criticised the conventional elitism ( of course that is not a very important thing to preserve; but as we know anything in extreme may turn out to be bad......yes populism and extensive degree of democracy too; one is free not to subscribe my ideas...........I too perhaps have to introspect time and again........but as for now, I prefer to conserve this) and recommended it to be replaced by his brand of populism( well, his brand of populism got much success. but one may doubt whose success is it after all, when one turns a generation into reading, but only to a certain brand of literature, giving a damn to the others , which often, prove to be qualitatively high genres. If populism helped in developing a class from out of the elite circle into one having refined taste then it's no doubt appreciable. But if that does nothing but creating just another genre catering the needs of a greater people in its own way, then the very success of such populist claims of reaching down and elevating people loses ground) I think we should at least try examine his points rather than flatly accepting or rejecting them.
Of course the central idea reflected by Mr. Bhagat, that a lot of things require to change, is undeniable. His class as a writer apart, the fact that he can connect with millions of Indian youth can't be ignored either. You are absolutely right in your stance that instead of talking the focus should be on action, to make India better. The ideas or the approaches advocated by Mr. Bhagat are also positive; they may not be flawless, but one rational man doesn't and should not expect perfection in absolute term from anyone, a leader or a common man. While one must not overlook the fact that Mr. Bhagat's suggestions, their brilliance notwithstanding, lack in a detailed sustainable plan, the other thing that is no less important is the real impact of the kind of activism Mr. Bhagat is involved in. Now to comprehend that we must look towards the reader base he has. Does Mr. Bhagat really reach out to those other millions of Indian youth who are outside the milieu that flaunts its familiarity with trendy lingo and sophisticated gadgets? Yes, Mr. Bhagat calls for spread of education and especially English. Even a fool will not doubt such proposal of inclusive development. But, the question of the hour is, did Mr. Bhagat do anything new than echoing the long standing collective desire of a lot of people for a better India in a trendy lingo or a catchy expression? The answer is no. One may argue that the solution ought not be new, rather its implementation requires something new, in our spirit, approach and mindset. Now the second question that crops up is whether Mr. Bhagat has done anything other than talking from the podium of that leadership summit. I don't know about any other deed of him than writing a few fictions, delivering lectures here and there, writing some 'society centric' articles in some newspapers, and oh yes, leaving the plum career opportunity of an Investment Banker, who got two degrees from two elite institutes of this country, though he has got a penchant for denouncing elitism, sometimes directly vented in his anger towards IITs and IIMs. Now one may again ask me a disturbing question, if writing itself is not an action contributing a lot of positive things to the society. I have to admit that it is. Thus at the end of the day, the answer again revolves round his capacity as a writer. Now I would prefer not to engage myself in the age old debate regarding classics and bestsellers. And let’s be very clear that popularity or saleability is not a sin. A classy work may also sell like hotcake in its own right. That is where the delicate and thin line remains, which masters achieve and most of common people thrive for in vein. I know that here the debate doesn't involve Bhagat the writer. But, since at the end of the day Bhagat has got almost nothing in his account, no direct involvement which counts, but his projected image as a writer who portrays society that qualifies him to comment in this regard, I could not but take into account his literary contribution. Now the fact that Bhagat sells must have some reason behind it. He undoubtedly can connect with the youth, and shares, at least, through his works, their collective aspirations. Now we want things to change. Not that our forefathers did not want it. They wanted it in their own ways and their aspirations might have been voiced by some other kind of expression. That might have managed currency in their times, but as time passed it just faded away.
That is why we must examine the real capacity of a self proclaimed messiah like Mr. Bhagat or his writing for that matter. Can he really inspire the youth of the nation? Or does he just cater the need of support to some people to sustain their illusory sense of participation in the social spectrum. We all want a better society, and I fear that most people, quite like me want that in platter. But does Mr. Bhagat open any new vista to those who want to explore it? Or do they really need this vocal tonic from Mr. Bhagat? I think Bhagat or no Bhagat they would have done their works. And judging myself I can bet he is too weak a leader to inspire the lazy lot into some real work. Rather some other writers who have not so openly vouched their activist self silently make one introspect and bring some refinement that drives a man to follow some morals, though the process may be slow.
And as I proceed to examine the impact of his social activism, I find nothing but the cocooned comfort of class in their illusory world of participation in the social dynamics confined to blogging, twitting and that sort of things (though I am ashamed of it, I have to admit my presence within this class) and increasing Mr. Bhagat's brand value as a socially committed writer.
Yes, I don’t deny that a preference for elitism exists in India. Perhaps it has something to do with our colonial hangover and partly with the rigour that is involved in maintaining quality along with being mass’ist. Mr. Bhagat’s writing can serve as a perfect example here. I know that would be the optimum situation. Someone rightly said that we Indians have a penchant for absolute perfection, not tested in terms pragmatism. But, if we are really interested in action rather than talking or dreaming, we have to examine the feasibility of our projects and determine our further steps accordingly. Now, one may claim that even if Mr. Bhagat compromises in the quality of his writing he does so consciously, not for the purpose of capturing the market but to convey some messages to the mass in such a way that suits them best, simple and trendy, for a broader purpose of educating them gradually. While examining Mr. Bhagat’s way of practising democracy, we must keep in mind that democracy is grey. So is India, being world’s largest democracy, be it bad or good; in democracy things are always relative. Now being the mother of diversity, our country rears a huge chunk of mass at each different level of society, their quality, character and attitude so different from the other. Thus, if one tries to shake elitism off and reach out to people across the social strata that can never be done so simply, in a uniform way. These different layers of mass have to communicated in different languages or expressions. Mr. Bhagat’s lingo as well as the Pan-Indian dream he sells falls short in this aspect than just communicating to one class of our country. The actual process involved in eradicating elitism may involve such extensive effort as to divert the focus from one’s area of specialization, which made him supposedly ‘elite’. So quality is likely to see a setback. Of course, intellectual superiority or material success has more to do than just creating a protective cocoon around the person concerned. One is always expected to contribute something for a broader purpose. And in my opinion, that should be best done in a system that streamlines the resource down the line categorically. The first and foremost responsibility lies in discharging one’s professional responsibilities. Then, comes the issue of contributing something more; the civil society or if one has reservation against using this set term the civilised people must take the responsibility. Now, simply because that is beyond our professional domain we should not take that in an amateur way. We must look for a system that will yield the best result. Now can you imagine a man with a Ph.D. in physics teaching elementary arithmetic to a boy of class one? If he’s teaching his own son or grandson the issue is different. But, to be practical and honest he can’t treat each kid of his locality as he does the boy from his family. He can of course do so. But the question is in which way can his resource be best utilised. Perhaps you’ll agree that for that job there will be more people, the professor concerned may have some other jobs which may be best done by him or people of his stature only. Here as I said other jobs I didn't mean delivering lecture in the class; he may be involved in his own research or write a book or get involved in such a number of works apart from discharging his duties responsibly. So the central idea is how to reach out to people in such a way that works and generates the maximum output. As far I can think trying to reach out to them who are just one or two tier below is an interesting idea. But, if we try to be mass’ist in our attempt to illuminate our surroundings, considering our limited capability in practical light, we are most likely to end up generating even less than what we could generate in our categorically limited approach. A lot of courageous and great people tried it. And history is there to tell us that only the Great Gandhi could claim some credible success in this respect. That’s why I, for the time being, would prefer to advocate limited ‘elitism’. Now, to be honest, I chose this limited approach because of my own limitations. Now one can ask, then why am I criticising Mr. Bhagat, when he is trying to reach out to people, a thing I couldn’t do. Here, I would like to reiterate the fact that the idea is not to reach out to people only, but to give them a refined uplift. Had reaching out been the only standard of success then our cricket and Bollywood had done it more successfully than Mr. Bhagat, even before the time Mr. Bhagat started. They reached out to more people across more vast and various segments, and tried to promote a brand of patriotism and nationalism which , to my utter disappointment, get visible only when there is a match or when the Border kind of movie is shown on TV. One must take a note that the Bollywood brand of nationalism, however inadequate it be, at least does not do away with the diversity of our country, what Mr. Bhagat does as he sells his Pan-Indian dream among the so called Gen-Y people, who have recently cropped up in this country and in practice are far from representing the whole young generation of this country. Those movies also have been constantly crusading against corruption, denouncing elitism, promoting traditional Indian family values of its own kind and so on. But, as we take our eyes off screen what we see is a state which at best can be identified as a distortion of the original idea. As I think the idea should be to convey the right thing in the right way, however limited the audience be. If you cannot manage a class of seventy, you must consider dividing them into sections, and impart the desired things to a limited audience. That will automatically be extended downstream and the gross result will multiply; I admit there will be some error and hence don’t expect mathematical accuracy however. This is a gradual process, slow and steady. But just being mass’ist may help one avoid the contemporary stigma attached to elitism, not in contributing anything positive. However, elitism as used in this context should not be equated with snobbery and rudeness. Had mass’ism been really potent to bring in any positive change Bhagat has many predecessors to claim the trophy. The only consolation for him, I think , is the fact that it did and perhaps will never work.Thus to my great disappointment, I have discovered that at this juncture of time I have no way other than to think about the next step with 'a pencil in my hand’. The way ahead is to be found by myself; at least Mr. Bhagat won't tell me.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mr. Tharoor's tweets and the controversy

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Recently there was much controversy revolving round Mr. Shashi Tharoor’s interaction with the netizens through Twiter. This is not the first time for his tweets to break the harmony of our conventional political process. This time as his opinion which apparently goes against his Home Ministry counterparts has become public, the controversy cropped up. It’s true that a minister bears the responsibility to defend the decision taken in a Cabinet meeting and not to dissect it in public. One can raise debates about something before the decision is taken, but not after that, as far ministers are concerned. There is no denial that the acts of Mr. Tharoor tend to undermine the conventional principle of ‘collective responsibility’. But, to say, as is supposedly said by some senior colleagues of Mr. Tharoor, that since governance is a serious business it should not involve public debate is another extreme.In today’s world where dynamism has become an essential element to survive, our political community must understand this. It is true that widespread public contribution sometimes brings some immature suggestions. But, this is too small a reason to undermine the average maturity of the people. The government need not always take decision directly following the opinion of the mass, but it must prove itself to be mature enough to withstand criticisms. And one must remember that the success of a democracy also lies in its capacity to draw more people to the ‘serious’ business of governance, not in making them aloof. And, we must consider the tremendous effort Mr. Tharoor has been putting in that direction for sometime now and honour his intentions.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Confession-The Mistake of the attempt to measure a master


Recently, I happened to fulfill a long standing wish of mine, the wish to read The Shadow Lines of Amitav Ghosh. While I started reading the the book I was not completely free from the reservations about Amitav Ghosh that I had developed after reading The Glass Palace, especially the way he treats sex and at time
his method of plot construction which, I thought, was heavily dependent on chance and coincidence, notwithstanding his genius of story-telling and penchant for detailed researches about his subject. However, the former appeared to me as a so compact and well knit piece of literature that I had to rethink and blush over my earlier evaluation of Ghosh. In this novel Ghosh played almost all his cards to assert his mastery over the craft. He made it very clear that though he usually writes in a very simple style, he is equally conversant with the comparatively complex literary devices and could have outshined many self proclaimed Post Modernists, had he wished so. As I finished the book it once again made me recall the old saying that going to measure the masters with our small scales is not a wise option as there remain ample chances of being befooled.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kabir Suman- A Pathbreaker in Politics?

Recently there is the news of Kabir Suman expressing his disgust over the present system of party-politics here, without even caring to spare his own party.This may seem striking as we are not quite accustomed to such a comment from a sitting MP. Of course, some leaders criticize their parties, interestingly enough, only when they are on the verge of quitting the party to join another. And though our intelligentsia often show concern about the present stagnant state of politics, its being dominated by parties which in turn are dominated by opportunist anti-social elements, once they join mainstream politics they usually stop talking about the high morals; then they start to cite the ground realities which cannot be changed overnight. But, Suman is a man who chose not to talk from the podium of Bengal’s self-proclaimed intellectuals only. He rather joined active politics. In the mean time he also had to perform some gallery show. Initially he didn’t react. Probably it took him some time to analyse. But the important thing is that finally he has raised his voice.

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 The commitment he had shown as an artist and promised to show in his new Avatar also, has been fulfilled by him. His drastic statement may in effect help the ruling party , or may be the reason of a split between the intellectuals or may not even manage to create a fuss against the high tide on which the opposition is riding nowadays; but whatever be the impact the fact that at least this one man has really, selflessly (at least it appears so from this distance) has spoken out his mind, has highlighted the collective desire of a lot of people that we do not want to welcome the obnoxious elements from either side, that actually it’s not the symbol but the people or the kind of people enjoying power must change, the way in which they are exercising their power must change, and that the faces of the civil society must change, must be honoured. It is not quite predictable what kind of drama is going to unfurl before us following this episode. But I wish if this time some real, positive things had happened, with some credible, really educated, competent people coming forward to echo the mood of the ‘civilised’ (I chose to skip ‘civil society’, it has almost become a slang now) people, to purge the system of the gangrene. What Suman did by directly approaching the media and the masses definitely sets a new trend. Our only hope is that this gesture ushers in a new age politics, a more participative and interactive kind of politics.

Friday, February 27, 2009

An Open Letter to A New Age Bengali Writer

Recently while surfing the net I logged on to the website of a new age bengali writer - , who appears to be very smart in both his ideas and expression, providing us with some hope about bringing a freshness in the monotonous world of bengali literature. The writer is one Shuvadeep Barua, whose writing I found to be very interesting when they first came to my hands and of whom, I have been an admirer since then. Particularly I have been very excited since going through his recent book 'JANUARY SATERO THEKE SATASER SITE INDURERA JAKHAN SAB POSHAK KETE DIE JAI' and waiting for a dialogue with him. Here is an open letter addressed to him, which I would like to share with fellow readers.

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Dear Shuvadeepda,
I have been an ardent admirer of your writings since years back, when a copy of your ALOKBIDDHA ANADHAKAR came to my hands.And it seemed to me that your book had brought some spalsh of fresh air in the stagnant pool of Bengali literature. The short stories contained in the book, which I see as a rich collection of parables, were of a genre, though initiated by masters of world literature, yet awaiting explorations by their Bengalee counterparts. This book attempts to provide a perfect picture of our worldly existence, explores its different aspects, and in this attempt takes the readers in a voyage in quest of some eternal truths and help us reach a junture where the rationale and mystic lay side by side, where darkness and light coexist and get dazzled by each other in such a way as to make the readers conscious of a higher reality within the surface reality or beyond it.
After that, there was a long wait for us, the readers, for a second book from you. Though during this period some of your short stories reached us, they were miles away from quenching our thirst in a similar way as a complete volume would have done. Among them, ‘Andhar Sagarer Opar Ek Birat Pakhi’ offered promises to be developed into a full fledged novel, but it did not as you chose to tell the story in the form of a short story. However, even if it does not fulfill our that very expectation, it proves to be a class by itself in dealing with a vast span of time in a very compact manner. This further enhanced our eagerness for a taste of your writings, in a scale greater than witnessed so far. And then finally, at this 2009 Kolkata Book Fair, our long wait has been met with a volume of your second book JANUARY SATERO THEKE SATASER SITE INDURERA JAKHAN SAB POSHAK KETE DIE JAY.

A casual reading through first few lines which gives us enough liberty to read the text in more than one alternative ways, each complemented by the others, and suddenly the text takes to gallop in a rhythm entirely of its own, bearing a sign of high musical influence, which does not fully conform to your personal account nor to the readers’ own fascination. A lot of musical references here and there made me conscious of the Rock n Roll days, the passion, crisis and expression of those days. In your novella the same eternal emotions have been vividly penned in the backdrop of Calcutta at the threshhold of the new millenium. Stark social realities like the local and colonial history of the place, and the air of globalization are mingled with the personal emotions of the protagonists as their streams of individual consciousness form the basis of a higher one, in such a way as to give a glimps of reality from a magical flight from where one can take a bird’s eye view, where one can feel the emtions objectively, and this elevation has been enabled by you in a very smooth, delicate way.
Thank you very much for offering us such a nice piece of text.

your admirer,
Sourav Adhikary.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Pink Brief Campaign and Beyond

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This article refers to the news of The Pink Brief Campaign and the kind of response it has managed to formulate. It is still a long way to state whether this movement will be able to attain the magnitude like The Bra Burning Movement and assert its impact on the issues of Indian women’s liberty in the same way or whether the pubgoing activity of some urban women can alone assure the liberation of women in an underdeveloped country like ours, where the society is plagued with diverse problems, complex and composite in nature. Mr. Mutalik rightly says that all these issues need to be debated ideologically and theoretically.But, this should be equally applicable to determine the standards of ideal Indian society, culture and the ideal Indian woman. Did his boys care to listen to the voice and logic of the other end in Mangalore? Launching direct action on one day and talking about dialogues on the very next day, when faced by direct resistance from the other side, only depicts his duality.