Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Reservations – Back in to lime light... Again…

After some political comments here and there reservation debate is back in to lime light. I think, it will stay there until another glamorous issue come forward. Anyway, we are not expecting to reach any solution through these non-stop debates. More or less news channels are filling 8.30 – 10.30 prime time with television debates which never had (will have) any conclusion. I often think, and to an extend I believe, we are not in the league for any meaningful debates. It’s easy for news channels to show these high decibel shouting matches as a replacement for otherwise costlier, on the site reporting and quality documentaries.

Well, let’s come back to the question. Is India’s SCs, STs are still backward? I can say a definite yes to this question If I exclude states like Kerala, which made fantastic progress in social indices.

Next question is does SCs, STs need government support? Again it’s a yes. They need strong affirmative action from government’s end, which should not be limited to grants and reservations but also to wipe out existing caste prejudices and to improve educational levels. They need support for many more years – not through words but through deeds.

Do I agree on reservations in government sector? As it is already there and it is a political suicide for any party to withdraw it, I can agree for its continuation to an extent. But certainly not in promotions.

Do I agree for reservation in private sector? Answer is a definite no. If seven decades of flawed reservation policies are not going to bring those groups forward, then it’s not going to happen if we are continuing the same policies for another two decades.

As a panellist pointed on a different topic in a regional news channel, I also believe that most of our social reforms happened during British era - no matter whether it’s the ban of Sati, laws against female infanticide, legalizing widow remarriage, age of consent against child marriage, Temple Entry Proclamations. How many such social reforms of such stature was executed by Independent India?

Leave private sector alone and focus on what we can actually do, to promote social indicators of those who were left behind due to their caste… By the way, most of new generation private sector companies hardly care to which caste you belong to.


New Year Resolutions

Do resolutions actually work? I don’t know; I believe it depends on the people who took it. On this January 1, I asked many people about their resolutions. Most of them had one or more; for some Jan 1 was like any other day.

I thought of taking a lot of resolutions on that day. But, after thinking about last years’ experience I refrained from taking any new ones. It was not that I didn’t follow any of my last year resolutions. In fact, compared to previous years I broke less resolutions last year :)

I believe it’s better to think about a day on that morning and do justice to whatever decisions we take. It’s not that we shouldn’t have any long term goals. However, it’s not necessary that we need to take it on new year day. It’s all about when we are ready to commit for an idea and to follow it through…

For all those who took resolutions, I hope that it didn’t break on the next day. For those who didn’t take resolutions you can have some whenever you are ready…


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A closure for ‘Comfort Women’?

Chinese and Malayan girls forcibly taken from Penang by the Japanese to work as 'comfort girls' for the troops
‘Comfort Women’ are those unfortunate women from East Asian countries – mainly Korean Peninsula, China, Philippines etc. – who were victim of extreme sexual abuses committed by imperial Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Right after the war, this issue was a matter of serious friction between Seoul (ruled by Japan from 1910 till the end of World War II) and Tokyo. After constant denials, Japanese Government finally acknowledged on 1993 that, Japanese military had forced Asian and European women to work on Japanese military brothels.

In 1995 Japan offered to set up a $1bn fund for victims. The amount was rejected by Comfort Women as it was coming in the form of private donations; neither from Japanese Government budget nor in the form of legal reparations. Hence it continued as a major dispute between two countries. Koreans went on to install a statue of ‘Comfort Women’ right in front of Japanese Embassy in central Seoul in 2011.

Jan Ruff O'Herne, taken shortly before she, 
her mother and sisters, as well as thousands 
of other Dutch women and children were 
interned by the Japanese Imperial Army 
in Ambarawa. Over the following months, 
O'Herne, along with six other Dutch women, 
was repeatedly  raped, day and night, by 
Japanese military personnel
Situation become problematic when South Korean president Park refused to have any summit meeting with Abe (Japanese Prime minister). This standoff lasted till this November. Looks like, US pressure – both Japan and South Korea are US allies – in the face of rising Chinese profile in the region and North Korean adventurism forced both countries to reach some kind of deal.

On Monday, South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers announced a new settlement on Comfort Women. According to which, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered an apology and $8.3mn (not legal reparation) aid set aside in Japanese budge for elderly comfort woman. By the way, this settlement was immediately criticized by elderly comfort women as Japanese are not accepting any legal responsibility for the crimes.

Both side said the deal as final irrevocable resolution on this issue. Along with this settlement, Japan also got an important promise from Seoul that, they will not criticize Tokyo again on this issue.

Japan could have done much more much earlier… Hope that, this settlement will draw a closure to comfort women issue. As far as those poor women are concerned, modern society should make sure that those type of horrible crimes should never 
happen in earth.


1.  Out of 238 comfort women came forward in South Korea only 46 are alive now. They too are in the late 80s and 90s.
2.      Depends on whom we ask, number of women forced to sexual slavery by Imperial Japanese military varies. Based on international estimates, it may vary between 2,00,000 to 3,00,000.


Photo Courtesy - Wikipedia

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kodajadri - Entering in to the graduate school of trekking

Oh, dear you are too long to walk for a day
Pilgrim's progress 
Last time when I was in Mookambika, I went to Kudajadri by Jeep. This time before leaving itself I made a pact with Jithu that we will trek to Kudajadri – to and fro. He was a bit apprehensive in the beginning. After searching a lot in internet we finally found out that, bus is available from Mookambika temple to Tarekatte. From there we need to walk close to 13km through forest to reach the top. First bus to Tarekatte from temple junction was at 8.15AM. Not to miss the bus, we skipped breakfast. By 9.15 we reached Tarekatte.

It was hardly a bus stop; in fact, it was just a turn in the middle of forest. At one side there was a sign board indicating the path to Kudajadri. Thus we started our walk.

Kodajadri Peak

You need more blood? Sorry, I can't give it to you
Located in Western Ghats, this peak is the 10th highest peak in Karnataka (Shivamogga District) with a height of 1,343m from sea level. From Kollur it will take around 21 km to reach here. This peak has significant importance in Hindu religious system. It is believed that sage Adi Sankara visited this peak and meditated here. A small temple called ‘Sarvajna Peeta’ is there on the top in his memory. Some 2 km down, there is one more temple which is considered as ‘Sri Moolashanam’ (Original location) of Mokkambika Temple. It was Sankaracharya who built a temple at Kollur for Mookambika Devi. A large group of devotees, mainly from Kerala, visit Kudajadri (most of them prefer Jeep) alongside Mookambika temple.

Growing - We leave the past behind and accelerate towards the future

On that day we were not alone for trekking. Some more people got down from bus - one group and another two guys.  These two guys – Subhash and Rajesh – joined with us and we together started our long walk. For few kilometers trekking path was wide and forest was shallow. Except for a number of snakes and numerous leeches we hardly saw any animals. Buy the way, leeches were efficient in locating human blood and drinking it. One won’t even know that these little creatures are doing it so smartly. Fortunately, we saw snakes before they saw us!!!

On the way...
After trekking for a while we reached at the edge of a small plain surrounded by green hills. A minor village with not more than 20-25 homes were located there. We had our breakfast from a small hotel and then started our next phase. From there, we had to travel close to 10-12 km through dense forest. I was the first one to climb the hills but energy didn’t last long. Last one week’s hard work and tiredness quickly caught up with me and took more rest than all other combined!!! Without doubt, the journey was a fascinating one.

On the way we met many who were on their return voyage after spending one full night at top. After a while we reached a mountain side and sat there for some time. From here we could see Kodajadri temples and peak on the next hill; however, there is a gorge in between. Hence we need to take a L shaped lengthy path to reach there. While sitting here we met another group (Shiva Yogi and Co.) who are also on the way to Kudajadri. For some of them, it was their second or third journey through the same path. For rest of the journey we were together. By the way, if any one likes to stay at Kodajadri at night then they can use inspection bungalow or preist’s home.

After taking 5-10 mins of break in an open area watered by a small creek we started our final ascend. Soon we reached inspection bungalow and temples. From there Sarvanja peeta is another 2 KM.  If it was not for friends, I would have stopped there itself. But they persisted and finally I also started climbing. But, I was so tired that, I had to let them go at an open area from where one can see two peaks and a valley. I spent next one hour there enjoying the sights of small yellow flowers and a pats on the back by white colored cold wind coming from the valley. That one hour was probably the best experience I had in the entire trekking.

Without reaching Sarvaja Peeta I can’t claim that I reached the top. Feeling rejuvenated after the cold wind recharged by energy cells I started walking towards ‘Sarvajna Peeta’ and soon reached there. During my last journey I went to Chitramoola Cave (located down but on other side of the hill), hence skipped that part and walked towards the edge of a cliff and sat there waiting for Jithu and others to come back.

While coming back we took the jeep. For one way they charged 250 INR/person (for complete journey they are charging 350). It took one hour and 45 minutes to reach Kollur by jeep. By the way, this jeep is going through probably one of the roughest motor-able path in the world itself!!!  After having a Masala Dosa from Vasudev Adiga’s at Kollur we were ready for return journey.

Memories captured by lens,

Subhash, Rajesh and Jithu - Four men in a boat
Here we stand and saw all of you
Caught people on the way and enlarged the group

Some place to sit in between.

I too need some honey
Meditating is good for health
In the name of Adi Sankara - Sarvajna Peedam
I, Me, Myself
Dear Sweety, don't fly away
Hmm, let me see what is on the other side
Hmmm.... not so dense, siblings are far away
I too have a story to tell
Temples at the top of the hills, article of faith.

Hills don't frighten me

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Indian Parliament Passed 'Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015'

Child Or Adult?
Finally, JJ Bill - Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 - cleared opposition led ‘Rajya Saba’ and now waiting for presidential approval to become law. There is a lot of questions on the decision to try juveniles aged between 16-18 as adult criminals. Unfortunately for all of us, our beloved parliament had little time to discuss matters of critical importance.

Main points in this bill are,

As per this bill ‘JJB (Juvenile Justice Board)’ and ‘CWC (Child Welfare Committee)’ will be formed in each district.

There will be an option for those (aged 16 – 18 years) who committed heinous crimes to be tried as adults. Under this bill there are three types of crimes – heinous (which attracts an imprisonment of 7 or more years under current law; Serious Offence (which attracts an imprisonment of 3-7 years) and ‘petty offence’ is the one which can result in a jail term of 3 years.

However, the person aged between 16-18 will not be prosecuted as adult automatically. “Whether the child committed the crime of heinous category in an adult or child mind, will be first assessed by the Juvenile Justice Board… comprise of psychologists, social workers and experts.”

One of the major hurdles faced by this bill was the fact that, it is based on NCRB data - which states that there is a spike in the crimes committed by people aged between 16 to 18. Unfortunately, NCRB data is based on number of FIRs filed (not as per actual conviction rates).

As per today’s report in ‘The Hindu’ (Why the FIR doesn’t tell you the whole story – The Hindu) they analysed all 500 cases involving sexual assault that had been came to Delhi’s six district courts in 2013 to present; and 142 cases decided by Mumbai’s two sessions courts.

These case included those which are filed under Molestation (IPC 354), Kidnap (IPC 363), Kidnapping a woman for marriage (IPC 366), rape and Sexual Offences against children (POCSO Act). Report states that, one quarter of all cases involved parents filing cases of kidnap and rape against young men who eloped with their young daughters (Many of them are inter-caste and inter-religion relationships). Out of 142 cases filed in Mumbai courts, only 41% resulted in convictions for crimes against women and girls; in 105 cases registered for Rape only 37% resulted in convictions. However, user POCSO conviction rate is much higher at 67%.

Hence NCRB data is not a factual indicator.

Overall the law looks good as it won’t trial juveniles aged between 16-18 automatically as adults; at the same time, it won’t allow juveniles who committed heinous crimes to escape using technicalities.
My only problem is, our parliament is hardly interested in spending time in conducting meaningful discussions on important bills.


Note 1: UNCRC states that signatory countries should treat every child under the age of 18 years in the same manner and not try them as adults.  While the 2000 Act complies with this requirement, the Bill does not.  However, many other countries who have also ratified the Convention try juveniles as adults, in case of certain crimes.  These countries include the UK, France, Germany, etc.  The United States is not a signatory to the UNCRC and also treats juveniles as adults in case of certain crimes. – PRS [1]


1. PRS – PRS Legislative Reserch (http://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/?p=3610)
2. The Hindu