Thursday, 16 February 2017

My journey as a Civil Services Aspirant

Life comes with opportunities. But when opportunities strike, they don't come alone. They come wrapped with certain risks surrounding it.

I experienced something closely related to above description when I was in my last year of graduation.

To start with, my 3 years at IIT provided me with the platform not only to think and see higher but also to aim high.

Guess what next? I was also in league of "Civil Services Aspirants". And the best place ofcourse to get the "enlightment" (all of us know very well!) is the streets and classrooms of Old Rajinder Nagar. Sitting in the compact classrooms my views and opinions broadened. Black and white transformed into "shades of Grey". A lad who use to be blind follower of religion started questioning the rituals/practices and misinterpretations of religions. He started discarding anything that failed to stand the test of rationality. He who was a firm critic of government now started considering himself a (virtual) part of it and realised it is not an easy task to run a nation. Now means have become important for him instead of ends. 
Though at times anxiety dominated reason and emotions but as a whole I'm really enjoying the journey without thinking so much about results. 

Friday, 4 March 2016


Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all” - Aristotle

Destiny of a nation is shaped in her classrooms. One child, one teacher, one book, one pen has the power to transform the whole world. The importance of education can nicely be expressed by the lines “A pen is mightier than the sword.” It is beyond doubt that all the individuals, societies, institutions, governments throughout the world have realized the importance of education. But if we see it from a different perspective then we would realize that education alone itself can’t make this world a perfect place. If it alone could then, “Why the present world is not free of problems?” “Why still there is social unrest leading to violence?” “Why are we still experiencing miseries in day to day life?” “Why despite having everything we lack prosperity and wisdom?” The answer lies in the importance of “values”. Education without values is just like producing machine/robots and not humans. It makes no sense if we gather knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. Therefore, value education is necessary so that the civilization that teaches us to manage complexities can be sustained and further developed.
Malala Yousafzai was an ordinary school student when Taliban attacked her for propagating education among children (especially among girls). What made her to raise voice against that injustice was value system inculcated to her by parents and teachers.

What Education without values would be?
A knife in the hands of a doctor can save many lives but the same knife in the hands of a murderer becomes a source of destruction. Education without values would create world of - Politics without Principle, Religion without Sacrifice, Science without Humanity, Business without Morality, Knowledge without Character, Pleasure without Conscience and Wealth without Work!
In this era of a “knowledge explosion” which has engulfed the present-day education system, the primary goal of education for improving the quality of life has been lost sight of. The present education system presses students hard to master vast content areas without providing them opportunity to introspect how that content/knowledge can be put to best of use.
When students cheat during exams it’s because our school system values grades more than student’s value learning. Our present education system is producing good engineers, doctors, lawyers, leaders but not good humans/thinkers/philosophers. This clearly signifies the lack of values in our present education system.

Why need for adherence to values in Education?
Bookish education mere provides us knowledge but it is the value system that teaches us how to utilize it – For or against the mankind! Discovery of Atom Bomb and Penicillin are both products of knowledge but it is the values which differentiate their inventors. It is the same value system that differentiates between Gandhi and Hitler (despite both of them being intellectual). Gandhi is respected world over for propagation of truth and non-violence whereas Hitler finds his place as “devil” in the pages of history books.
There are several problems plaguing the whole world. Corruption has spread its roots everywhere and almost every section of the society is affected by it. Scholars have researched intensively but are unable to come out with a universally accepted solution. Hence, now majority are of the view that this evil can only be encountered by value education. As former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam rightly said “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference – the father, the mother and the teacher." In other worlds he is directly emphasizing on value education to children through teachers and parents.
According to Global Risk Report, one major risk world is facing at present times is Religious/Ideological Extremism. Whole world is sitting on the brink of religious civil wars because of hatred and intolerance towards different religious ideologies. Our country also had witnessed riots. Every day in newspapers we read about  youth world over joining ISIS, Al Qaeda –This is because youth today is becoming Impatient and wants immediate results which weakens his rational thinking to differentiate between right and wrong. Hence there is need to strengthen their value system to make them more tolerant and secular.
Income Inequality could be reduced if ‘business’ is replaced by ‘business with ethics’ and the necessary values must be inculcated into the graduates – Doctors, Engineers, MBA scholars, Lawyers who will shape future of our nation so that they consider it their duty and not mere ‘profession’.
Sexual Abuse – What urges a juvenile to rape an innocent girl puts a big question mark on our ability to inculcate values in our children. Not only the individual who raped but society as a whole is responsible for these kinds of heinous acts because values were lacking in that juvenile.
Drug Abuse Problem – Major problem in state of Punjab. We can open innumerable Rehabilitation centers but they only serve as a ‘cure’ and that too with very low success rate. The best ‘prevention’ strategy in this regard will be to engage youth in value education.
Development of biotechnology and bio-informatics has on the one hand, increased agricultural production, better medical facilities, some environmental gains, but has also created problems of ‘gene cloning’ and ‘surrogate motherhood’, raising complex ethical issues. If we neglect to make connection between basic ethics and technological progress, we would be ushering in an era of barbarism with a human face.
Remember, education is better safeguard of liberty than a strong army; it is a better tool for women empowerment than mere government schemes; it is an effective tool that can better safeguards human rights rather than conventions, declarations etc which merely exist on paper.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Recourse Development in its Eighty First Report on Value based Education (1999) highlighted that Truth (Satya), Righteous Conduct (Dharma), Peace (Shanti), Love (Prema), and Non-violence (Ahimsa) as the core universal values which needed to be identified as the foundation stone on which the value based education programme can be build up. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a specialized body of UN for propagating education has also realized the importance of values in education.
Value education must begin right from the family and must be continued in schools. The family system in India has a long tradition of imparting value education. But with the progress of modernity and fast changing role of the parents it has not been very easy for the parents to impart relevant values in their wards. Also schools and universities today run on profit motive considering imparting education as mere business and not a duty. Hence a holistic and multi-pronged approach may be adopted starting from informal education by birth itself and then continuing it in schools and University level. First and foremost need is to rejuvenate the family system of imparting value education to child. Ethical and moral values must be included in school curriculum. School must strive to provide ‘Gurukul’ like culture to students (Teachers can prove to be a vital link for this as a good teacher teaches from heart and not from the books). Emphasis must be put on Human Rights Education in Universities by introducing research and documentation courses at graduate and post graduate levels. Values of empathy, compassion, secularism, inclusiveness and pluralism must be highlighted to fulfill ideals of justice, equity, freedom, democracy and human rights. Philosophies of great reformers and thinkers must be taught and healthy discussions/debates must be held. In this regard Swami Vivekananda philosophy of ‘not I but thou’, meaning you are a part of me and I of you, in hurting you I hurt myself and in helping you I help myself can be of immense importance. Focus must be on broad values such as cultural, universal, personal and social values. Even there is need to inculcate Environmental values to avoid instances of deforestation, global warming, water and air pollution. The concept of our planet as ‘mother earth’ must be reviewed by introducing environmental values in curriculum.
We must keep in mind that it is the value system that could prepare the younger generation to become responsible citizens who finally would contribute to the welfare of society and to the advancement of human race. True values would be inculcated when we would be able to produce more and more ‘eklavyas’ in our class rooms who just like him (sliced off his thumb without hesitation and offered it to Drona as guru dakshina’) would devote themselves for the development of nation and betterment of mankind/society as a whole.

What "Religion" means to me ?

Relgion - Its not just a word - It encompasses the whole of universe and If you supposedly happen to be theist, then not only universe, it may encompass the creator of universe as well.
For some, 'religion' means worshipping god may be for inner satisfaction or may be out of fear. For others it may be the means for maximising happiness. Some profess religion by visiting Mecca, some by practising a shot of marijuana, some by kidnapping innocent girls (Boko Haram) in name of it, some by justifying killing innocent people, raping women & girls. Everyone is now using religion as a tool to satisfy his/her own needs and interprets it accordingly.

For me "religion" is synonym for putting smile on faces and for this matter it would not be incorrect if I call myself as an "atheist". Yes being born in a Hindu family, I also use to believe in religion. (Here I'm not referring to word "religion" but the way it is professed). Slowly the supposedly holy threads in hand of mine were replaced by watch. I still have belief in the word 'religion' but I outrightly reject some of the methods by which it is professed. My religion doesn't depends on fluctuating oil prices, neither my god becomes so much angry through its cartoons that it justifies killing. My God is not a function of space and time. My religion is not god fearing but god loving.

Yes! I’ve been to temple, I bowed in a mosque, I have make prayers in a Church as well but I couldn’t spot any difference/reason in them like some people argue – My God is superior to you, Our holy book is superior than yours! Jai Shri Ram is same for me as Allah ho Akhbar which in turn appears to me having same meaning as Long Live Christ!

Friday, 21 March 2014

WHY “DARK”...Governance, Colour, Resources, Exploitation or Destiny ??

Fortunately (although at times it happened to be unfortunate!!)  I’ve been to west most corner of the so called “Dark Continent”, to a country named Republic of Guinea, two times, as a part of some project to be developed there. It left me with innumerable questions in my mind – answers of which I’m still searching for!!

The journey itself was very special as we had transit at UAE to reconnect Flight to Guinea. This provided me with an opportunity to recall what I had learnt in my class tenth textbooks – Glimpses of all the three types of economies - It was journey from a developing nation (India) to the underdeveloped (Republic of Guinea), through a developed one (UAE).

A view of Dubai International Airport
The very seven odd hours spent at Dubai International Airport’s scenic beauty, I was wondering that the developed nations have made so much progress in terms of technology and standard of living, whether our country would ever in generations be able to compete with them. Globalisation could best be visualised there as I was able to see people from all corners of the world carrying/representing different identities. In a way, Dubai International Airport serves as a “Global Transit Hub” as Emirates airlines has flights for almost all the regions of the world.

Now something about Republic of Guinea – Geographically located on Western side of Africa, Atlantic Ocean borders its capital city Conakry. It is a predominantly Islamic country, with Muslims representing 85 percent of population. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. The issue of human rights in the country remains controversial. The underdevelopment is the result of prolonged history of poor governance that includes French Colonization (that’s why its official language is also French), more than 50 years of Autocratic rule and then a short termed rule by Military Junta before turning into a Republic.

Just after landing in Guinea (curious/excited as well as with some sense of fear!!) I had the experience of what an “under-developed” nation means. The officials (police as well!!) at the airport were so corrupt that at each exit point they demanded bribe (of course without any reason!!). After exiting from airport on way to hotel, I could saw innumerable old generation Renault cars carrying luggage up to level equivalent to 3-4 times the height of car, thus making fun of so called “Centre of gravity” concept of physics. The country has only about 13% access to electricity, provided to households from evening 6 to morning 6 and that too on alternate days. It means during daytime they don’t have access to electricity at all. The economy is so unproductive that One US Dollar equals 7000 in their local currency (Guinean Franc). When asked for exchange worth 4000 US Dollars, I was astonished to see the man bringing two bags, filled with their local currency. Forget about balanced diet comprising of proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, fat, roughage & all we demand in India as part of Food Security, they don’t even have basic food to just kill their hunger. I could see a metre long bread piece in hands of few (mostly children) & somebody told me that this is the only food of theirs for the whole day. Much annoying was the condition of people sitting roadside whole day doing nothing (as there was no infrastructure, no access to electricity & hence almost no economy!!)

Still under the aegis of “Under-development”, the term “Globalisation” had not lost its relevance there also. We were (luckily) able to locate Hotel Taj Mahal with Indian & Pak cuisines as well as a Chinese Restaurant & a Casino. Respect for Indian cinema/Bollywood grew exponentially for me when people, even not knowing in which corner of the planet earth do India lie, were endlessly praising Amitabh Bachhan, Shahrukh Khan naming few movies of them. I felt really glad knowing this!

 After exploring the Urban Guinea, the next was to explore its rural counterpart. As we moved deeper into the villages heading towards the project site, the situation turned out to be more pathetic. The villages had almost no or very bad road connectivity with no suitable modes of public/private transport available. They are so much isolated that for a normal village person, going to city/town seems going to other planet. In such a scenario how one can imagine children to have better access to schools in nearby city, needy ones to have better access to healthcare, unemployed to have better job opportunities in cities and a whole lot of never ending list.

A scene captured in town of Guinea showing children going to school
There had been moments forcing me to think what the term “Human Rights” actually means? Are Global Institutions really working to protect them? If so, then I witnessed an amazing paradox – A poor child wearing T-shirt of United Nations (probably distributed as part of UNICEF initiative), searching dustbin that was kept roadside in hope of getting some food to kill hunger, finding a small piece of bread & then happily eating it!

On way, we saw children (mostly starved) waving hands towards us, maybe as a welcome gesture or maybe in some hope but I really felt helpless thinking of their miseries & started thinking if I could in anyway do something to lessen them. The journey left innumerable questions in my mind – Who is responsible for this condition of theirs – Is it because of poor governance? Is it the colour that matters to such an extent that it ultimately decides who is master & who a slave, though I reject this notion otherwise Obama could never have been a President of the world’s most powerful nation! Are they themselves responsible for their situation as no one has taught them of their rights & they have now satisfactorily accepted their daily life, not willing to change & think beyond  their imagination, or…....Or it is only the luck/destiny that whomsoever gets more resources would become more wealthier and powerful. I reject this notion as well because Africa is a resourceful continent! Or this situation is because of exploitation by Superpowers, first by French (Colonization) & now by US/Russia by exercising their monopoly over “so called” Global Democratic Institutions like UN, World Bank, FAO in the process of decision making, whether on issues of trade/agriculture/environment/politics, vetoing their decision, having consequences only for these third world countries - stalling their progress & ultimately their right to live & prosper!

Whatever may be the reason, it is pretty clear that only Education, better Healthcare & Infrastructure can bring some light in their lives. I wish “light” for this “dark” Continent!!

Dedicated to all those hopeful children in Africa who left a long lasting impression on me !!