We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The magic of touching...

"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime." 

-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Monday, April 9, 2012

Life And Death In India’s schools ....

    A great move by the Supreme court of India in guaranteeing Right to Education in Indian schools. 

    An excerpt....
    "Declaring that the Right to Education is constitutionally valid, the Supreme Court today said the Right to Education will apply to all schools controlled by the government or local bodies."

    More here

    Contradicting this with the factual status of how rural, economically backward, and lower caste students face harsh situations in Indian elite schools such as IITs, where they can not cope up with the pressure and social stigma where society around does not provide a support system for equal opportunities and elites stay elites whereas poor get suppressed to serve the interest of elites...

    The fundamental question is, could passing of a law make improvements in the minds of traditional Indian society, which is so much riddled with caste equations and so many socio-economic problems.....

    Policies and laws gather dust, whereas implementation never happens or takes so much time, that one loses interest and motivation. 

    Excerpts from an article in Outlook magazine, 16 March 2012 

    "... What makes Indian society so shameless as to not just deny but even
    justify such prejudice against Dalits that lead to murders? Why is it that
    these deaths are used to bolster perverse arguments against the very
    existence of reservation? ... ... Most children from disadvantaged castes
    end up as maids, child labourers or dropouts. In most of rural India,
    Dalit students are asked to sit apart, sweep the school verandah or clean
    toilets. ... ... For a Dalit girl, the odds are worse. In Khairlanji,
    Maharashtra, in September '06, the fact that 17-year-old Priyanka
    Bhotmange was educated and sought a life of dignity outraged the peasant
    castes. She and her mother Surekha were raped, paraded naked and murdered;
    her brothers were butchered. ..."

    The Killing Of Shambukas - Dalit students still face oppressing times in
    our educational institutions

    S. ANAND

    Outlook magazine, 16 April 2012

    "My final words of advice to you are educate, organise and agitate. Ours
    is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is
    a battle for the reclamation of human personality." - Dr. Bhimrao Ramji

    In 1901, at age 10, young Bhim realised he could not drink the water at
    his school in Satara. Like most Dalits in India, he did not have to be
    kicked out of a train in a foreign country to get a taste of
    discrimination. Still, Ambedkar's thirst for education made him persist.
    In 1918, on returning with doctorates from Columbia University and the
    London School of Economics, Ambedkar was once again reminded of his
    untouchability. The patronage of the Baroda maharaja, a fine education,
    money, good clothes, none of it helped him quench his thirst with dignity
    or find shelter. To overcome the poison of a system that believed in the
    innate inferiority of certain castes, he offered the antidote of
    reservation. And he gave Dalits the Fabian Socialist slogan: educate,
    organise, agitate.

    Reservation in India is actually a battle for the reclamation of human
    personality - something that is still casually denied to millions of
    Indians. Last week, the newspapers reported that a doctor couple in Delhi
    - Sunita and Sanjay Verma - locked up a 13-year-old Jharkhand maid in
    their house with nothing but salt and flour, and went on a holiday to
    Bangkok. The abused girl was rescued and the doctors have since deferred
    their return to the city.

    Earlier last month, on March 3, Anil Kumar Meena, an adivasi medical
    student at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, killed himself in
    his hostel room. Educated in the Hindi medium, the son of poor farmers in
    Baran, Rajasthan, Meena had scored 75 per cent in Class 12 and a second
    rank in the AIIMS entrance test. He was following in the footsteps of Bal
    Mukund Bharti, a final year MBBS student, who exactly two years ago hung
    himself to death in his hostel room in AIIMS. As I write this, news comes
    of Neeraj Kumar, a first-year Dalit medical student in Lucknow's
    Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, failing in his attempt to
    take his life. There have been 17 other such suicides of Dalit/adivasi
    students in the last five years (see graphic) documented by Insight
    Foundation, a Delhi-based initiative that seeks to make our institutes of
    higher learning 'more inclusive'.

    Most children from disadvantaged castes end up as maids, child labourers
    or dropouts. In most of rural India, Dalit students are asked to sit
    apart, sweep the school verandah or clean toilets. Omprakash Valmiki, the
    Hindi Dalit writer, in his autobiography 'Joothan', recalls the
    humiliation of being forced to perform his caste occupation by his
    headmaster, who told him: 'Go sweep the whole playground. Otherwise I will
    shove chillies up your arse and throw you out of school.' Almost every
    first-generation formally educated Dalit has such horror stories to share.
    For every youth who manages to persist with the skewed education system,
    four members of the family skip a meal; siblings work as farm labour to
    help one person hope for and dream of a life of dignity. For a Dalit girl,
    the odds are worse. In Khairlanji, Maharashtra, in September '06, the fact
    that 17-year-old Priyanka Bhotmange was educated and sought a life of
    dignity outraged the peasant castes. She and her mother Surekha were
    raped, paraded naked and murdered; her brothers were butchered.

    Those who defy such impossible odds and make it to institutes of higher
    education - statistically 2 in 100 Dalits manage this - are welcomed with
    barbs and taunts from faculty and fellow students. When not harassed to
    death, they are crushed in spirit. Those from castes that feel innately
    superior tend to look at adivasi/Dalit students as fit only for menial
    labour, like the Vermas who locked up their maid.


    Last February through April, a debate unfolded in the British media about
    the poor representation of Black students in Oxford University. For all
    his faults, Prime Minister David Cameron intervened, saying it was
    .disgraceful. that universities like Oxford.his alma mater.had so few
    students coming from Black and minority ethnic groups. The Telegraph had
    reported: 'Fewer than one in 100 students beginning courses at Britain's
    two oldest universities in 2010 were Black, including just 20 of the 2,617
    British students accepted to Oxford, a fall from 27 in 2009.' David Lammy,
    a Black Labour MP, collected data using freedom of information requests
    and wrote a column in The Guardian lamenting 'the Oxbridge whitewash'.

    The debate in Britain is in sharp contrast to the silence in India. In
    2006, following reports of discrimination in internal evaluation
    (especially practical and viva), segregation in hostels, mess rooms and in
    sports and cultural events, a three-member committee headed by Sukhadeo
    Thorat, then chairman of the University Grants Commission, conducted an
    inquiry into the state of affairs in AIIMS. The 77-page Thorat committee
    report indicted the administration on many counts and offered
    recommendations, but it was dismissed as prejudiced and no action was
    taken. Here's one of the incidents narrated in the report. In April '06,
    Umakant, the Dalit occupant of Room 45 in Hostel 1, found this graffiti on
    his door: 'Fuck off from this wing'. The miscreants once even bolted the
    door from outside when Umakant was inside. He made a formal complaint.
    What happened? 'The students were reminded of their duties, adherence to
    discipline, tolerance towards each other and were told to concentrate on
    their studies.' The culprits were asked to shake hands with the Dalit
    student, after which they promptly went and thrashed him, forcing Umakant
    to shift his room to a segregated section where all 'scheddus' were meant
    to be.

    If such was the wilful neglect of the AIIMS administration, shouldn't the
    deaths of Anil Meena and Bal Mukund Bharti be deemed murders? And such
    murders aren't limited to AIIMS. On August 26, '07, Ajay Sree Chandra, 21,
    an integrated PhD student at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore,
    killed himself. Despite making it to IISC in open competition, he was
    admitted under the reserved category. Then began hell. In his diary, he
    describes the atmosphere in the lab where he seems to be repeating an
    exercise for the third time as some kind of punishment: 'Time: 11.45 p.m.
    Maybe I am in the wrong lab or this lab is not for me. Those eyes, they
    scare me, they look with such inferiority/superiority complex @ you.'
    While AIIMS maintains that Anil Meena died owing to 'depression', IISC
    decided that Ajay Chandra died unable to cope with 'stress'.

    Over the years, there have been some feeble 'reformist' attempts to help
    'category' students cope in elite science, management and tech institutes
    through crash courses in personality development and English skills. The
    Kozhikode-based Centre for Research and Education for Social
    Transformation, CREST, has even prepared some 'packages'. When solicited,
    it conducts weeklong on-campus 'self-enrichment' programmes to help
    Dalit/adivasi students 'integrate' into iims and IITs like it did in IIT-D
    last year. What they do not do is sensitise the predominantly 'upper'
    caste faculty and students - the Dronacharyas and Arjunas at these
    institutes who insist on hacking the thumbs of Eklavyas. It is those who
    discriminate who need help.

    Just imagine the repercussions if Black students were to die half as
    routinely in Harvard or in Oxford as Dalit and adivasi students die in
    AIIMS, IITs and IISCs. When Indian students in Australia - predominantly
    students with surnames like Gupta and Sharma not good enough to make it to
    IITs, IIMs and AIIMS.are attacked, it is 'racism'; it even becomes a
    diplomatic issue. When Dalit and adivasi students on Indian campuses are
    hounded to death, there's not a murmur. What makes Indian society so
    shameless as to not just deny but even justify such prejudice against
    Dalits that lead to murders? Why is it that these deaths are used to
    bolster perverse arguments against the very existence of reservation?

    In the 2003 blockbuster, Munnabhai MBBS, the protagonist flaunts a Brahmin
    surname, Murli Prasad Sharma. As a bhai whose daily business is extortion,
    hustling and kidnapping, Murli goes on to cheat his way into an MBBS
    course and even tries to clear the exam by fibbing. He was loved and
    hailed as a voice against an insensitive system. It.s not surprising that
    the humour and message of Munnabhai became so popular, for a Sharma was
    doing the deeds. Unlike Murli Prasad Sharma, Anil Meena and Bal Mukund
    Bharti toiled hard to make it to AIIMS. They did not cheat their way in.
    With their deaths, a million Dalit and adivasi aspirations are crushed.

    Ajay Chandra speaks of harsh, judgemental eyes that scared him. It is time
    we learnt to meet the eyes of Ajays, Anils and Bal Mukunds with the
    respect, love and friendship they deserve. That will perhaps help humanise
    the very sick Dr Vermas. Till then these deaths will haunt us.

    Life And Death In India.s schools

    Nineteen young buds lost, and that.s just in the last five ye ars. How bad
    was it for them that they took their own lives?

    * Malepula Shrikant, Jan 1, .07 Final year B.Tech, IIT Bombay
    * Ajay S. Chandra, Aug 26, .07 Integrated PhD, Indian Institute of
    Science (IISc), Bangalore
    * Jaspreet Singh, Jan 27, .08 Final year MBBS, Government Medical
    College, Chandigarh
    * Senthil Kumar, Feb 23, .08 PhD, School of Physics, University of
    * Prashant Kureel, Apr 19, .08 First year B.Tech, IIT Kanpur
    * G. Suman, Jan 2, .09 Final year M.Tech, IIT Kanpur
    * Ankita Veghda, Apr 20, .09 First year, BSc Nursing, Singhi Institute
    Nursing, Ahmedabad
    * D. Syam Kumar, Aug 13, .09 First year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of
    Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada
    * S. Amravathi, Nov 4, .09 National-level young woman boxer, Centre of
    Excellence, Sports Authority of AP, Hyderabad
    * Bandi Anusha, Nov 5, .09 B.Com final year, Villa Mary College,
    * Pushpanjali Poorty, Jan 30, .10 First year, MBA, Visvesvaraiah
    Technological University, Bangalore
    * Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, Jan 31, .10 Final year MBBS, Chattrapati
    Maharaj Medical University (former KGMC), Lucknow
    * Balmukund Bharti, Mar 3, .10 Final year MBBS, AIIMS, New Delhi
    * J.K. Ramesh, Jul 1, .10 Second year BSc, University of Agricultural
    Sciences, Bangalore
    * Madhuri Sale, Nov 17, .10 Final year B.Tech, IIT Kanpur
    * G. Varalakshmi, Jan 30, .11 B. Tech first year, Vignan Engineering
    College, Hyderabad
    * Manish Kumar, Feb 13, .11 IIIrd Year B.Tech, IIT Roorkee
    * Linesh Mohan Gawle, Apr 16, .11 PhD, National Institute of Immunology,
    New Delhi
    * Anil Kumar Meena, Mar 3, .12 First year AIIMS, New Delhi

    (Information courtesy Insight Foundation)


    (The author is the publisher of Navayana.)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lets Do It ....Cleanup the world

World Cleanup. Lets clean the world together ....

Excerpts from WikiPedia ...

Let's do it 2008 (Teeme √§ra 2008) is the largest campaign to activate civic society in Estonia since the Singing Revolution in 1988.[citation needed] The international campaign for cleaning all countries is called Let's do it world.
Over 50,000 people, or approximately 4% of the population of 1,3 million, participated in the cleanup of the forests and countryside, which would equal 15.3 million people in the United States, or 57 million people in India. Momentum for the event was built up with a media campaign from October 2007 to April 2008. The action was carried out during one day in 3 May 2008. More than 10,000 tons of garbage were removed from the country's forest in about 5 hours for less than 500,000 euros. Under normal circumstances it would have taken the government 3 years and 22.5 million euros to accomplish a similar feat.

More here...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Behaviorial aspects of technology

Experts from Yvette Subramanian of CITRIS.

There are a growing number of persuasive technology apps and systems that aim to make individuals (and therefore society) healthier, greener, more financially sound, smarter, happier, and so on. Analysis of such technologies often focuses on the aggregate results, for example the total percentage of residential electricity saved across households. However, an aggregate focus misses important aspects of the behavioral responses at an individual level. This talk focuses on experiments and models that examine behavior at the level of the individual, and demonstrates how such analyses could guide the effective design of behavior change technologies and better predict their impacts on different users' segments.