Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 53 'Floody Irresponsibilities'


For sure, the recent news headlines about Chennai are on expected lines.


- Chennai faces worst water crisis; tanker prices soar

- Water Woes: Parched Chennai cries for relief

- Drinking, bathing becomes luxury in Chennai as water crisis grips city

- Water-starved Chennai IT corridor turns to BYOP (bring your own plates) and BYOD (bring your own devices) to tackle the (water) crisis

- Chennai: No water, work from home, IT firms tell staff

- Chennai hotels, hospitals hit hard by water crisis

- Man attacks woman with knife over water dispute in Chennai, arrested

- Madras HC (High Court) seeks report from Tamil Nadu government over water crisis in Chennai

The house that my parents constructed in Chennai in the mid 1960s was almost on the border of the then Chennai City but now is almost the heart of it. Our plot was cut out of a 11 ½ acre coconut grove with over a thousand trees. After laying out some 92 plots, with roads cut in between, each plot got an average of six to eight coconut trees. Initially, for at least about four to five years, there were only a couple of houses in the entire colony and I thoroughly enjoyed the abundance of the greenery the colony afforded both by the coconut fronds as well as the grass underneath.

Today, in the entire colony there might not be six to eight coconut trees. That is ‘development’ for you. Whenever a new construction used to take place, my father used to go and plead with the owners / promoters to leave some land uncovered from concrete. He was more often laughed at and taken in as a raving old man. He used to argue that we should allow the earth to absorb water from the rains. No, sir, many would not listen, as for them it is dirty to walk on the raw earth. We need to be on the concrete and we need our vehicles to be on the concrete. Our feet cannot get dirty. Period! 

In our own house, we used to brush and wash near some plant so that the water goes to the plant and not wasted. My father and I used to bathe nearer the well and the water is channeled to the coconut, mango, guava and sapota (chiku) trees. Only womenfolk in the family used to take their bath in the bathroom and even that water was channelled towards the papaya and other plants. Virtually not a drop used to be wasted.

And now, we are willing to squeeze water out of this dirt for survival and do not mind the source of water, really.

I am sure that my beloved dad, who is no more, is having the last laugh, from wherever he is.

Yes, now Chennai is staring at such an acute water shortage which I haven’t witnessed in my six decade plus life. Today the water table in our area is so deep that even our water well is on the brink of drying up!

Yet my worry doesn’t stop with the present water scarcity but with the future of the sewerage in the city. The human wastes have to be kept flowing through the underground sewerage and flowing cannot happen without water. If at a point of time, due to the scarcity of water, the flow stops, we are going to face clogged and 'concrete' drains very soon in the city which could create havoc with the health of the citizens leading to endemic and / or epidemic issues.

And what about the poor dumb animals? To whom will they call out their predicament?

Coming back to the issue on hand, the present Chennai water crisis teaches us four lessons;

(i) Whatever diamonds, platinum, gold, silver and other precious wealth items we may accumulate, we still cannot eat or drink them

(2) Prudence does not seem to be our virtue

(3) Not much of evidence seems to be forthcoming on the preparations being made by the government to really face, combat and contain the exigency and

(4) We haven’t really learnt our lessons from the nature and continue to be irresponsible.

During the first week of December 2015, Chennai, along with several other places of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh saw an unprecedented amount of heavy rainfall generated by the annual north-east monsoon, affecting most of the Coromandel Coastal region.
“Though the unusually heavy rainfall in southern India during the winter of 2015 has been attributed to the 2014–16 El Niño event, in July 2018 the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) categorised the flooding across Tamil Nadu as a ‘man-made disaster,’ and held the Government of Tamil Nadu responsible for the scale of the catastrophe, which the latter had termed a natural disaster” (Verbatim Info Courtesy:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_South_Indian_floods).

The flooding of Adyar River and the Cooum River in Chennai took the entire rain water to the sea.

In the year that followed, we had the very severe cyclonic storm Vardah crossing the eastern coast of India close to Chennai in the afternoon hours of 12th December, 2016 causing extensive damage to roads, supplies and power infrastructure.

The most important point to be noted is that this Cyclone also brought torrential rain, but again the water could not be contained in the catchment areas rendering the city water-starved within about a month after the cyclone affecting the city.

We are now in 2019 which means we had at least two full years of time to be more prepared like de-silting, deepening and expanding the catchment areas, lakes and ponds ensuring right utilisation of rivers and waterways.

And the last few months would have been more ideal for such activities with very little water in the reservoirs.

But then except for activities and initiatives undertaken by NGOs and individuals or CSR work by some organisations like Confederation of Indian Industry (CII),  no further serious prudential action appears to have been taken, for being prepared to face the imminent water scarcity.

Historically, excepting for continuing pro-longed arguments with neighbouring states for water, very little action seems to have been taken by successive governments in making the state, ‘water-contained’ and ‘water-disciplined’. We do not hear of much work done on dams or developing/maintaining the water infrastructure in the state in comparison with some of the neighbouring states.

Of course, after the 2015 floods in Chennai and 2016 Vardah cyclone, some noise has been made on removing encroachments from water bodies but really how prepared were people or its representatives in really facing a water emergency such as now is anybody’s guess!

Presently, the government tried and is still trying to arrange water from alternative sources like water stored in reservoirs created by stone quarrying, and supplemented to whatever extent possible from schemes like the 'Telugu Ganga' etc. To be fair to the government, it has also been trying to source water through tanks from other reservoirs in the state which might be having some water left out and whatever other sources are available. But these are more like sops than permanent solutions, which are needed and looked up to, by the people.

Apparently, the government fee / charges for a tanker truck that supplies water are some Rs.700 per tanker truck, but the waiting could be as long as 20 days and chances of your booking getting cancelled automatically (like the 'time-out' that happens with apps and phone banking etc.) mid-way are quite high and happening.

The private tanker trucks charge anything between Rs.2,500 to Rs.3,500 and on some occasions even higher, depending on the need / demand but then, even this supply is not guaranteed.

So an average family is spending anything from Rs.2,000 to Rs.5,000 both for bubble packed water (for cooking and drinking) and tanker water for washing and ablutions.

What happens to the hapless and poor people who cannot afford such high costs with their meager incomes?

Yet, how are people sourcing water for functions and celebrations like weddings? It is a puzzle!

Is it not the responsibility of a government to provide succour? Why can’t they be better prepared and plan for contingencies like this, is what people are wondering at? Industries should have been decentralised across the state, to reduce internal migration and pressure on one or few single cities. Tamil Nadu, to a good extent did this but perhaps this is not enough? But the most important point to be noted is that development should have been in consonance with need and not with greed!  

Will they start acting after the cities become deserted? Even if people have to desert where will they go? Other neighbouring cities are not doing great either.

This reminds of an anecdote.

I used to work for a nationally reputed Indian Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company. Our Sales Manager-South used to have his own way of motivating his staff.

Once, a particular detergent brand of ours was not moving in the market as he would have liked to. At that time, our nearest competitors, including a Multi-National and an Indian century old traditional business house, were on strike and their products were not available.

So, an internal circular from our sales manager, to his sales staff, went something like this (I am writing not from verbatim but from memory) “Our factories are producing to capacity. Stocks are available with all depots and stockists. Our competitors are suffering from workmen strikes. So when do you plan to sell our product? Do you expect the people to come into shops and stand in queues to buy our brand of detergent?”

Similarly does the government expect people to migrate or murder each other for water before bringing their act together and become pro-actively responsible? And mass migration would leave the houses unattended and could easily become prey for criminal activities.

The answer to be given to High Court should be an interesting read when ultimately that happens.

Meantime, should we, the people, look towards the skies, keep praying while increasing the sales of the talcum powder, perfumes and disposable tissues (we can’t use sand for the purpose like they do in deserts, as, much usable sand apparently has already been quarried off ill/legally) to be used in lieu of water to bathe and for ablutions?

Well, folks, what do you think? Please, do tell me! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai),Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish),Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (TokPisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 52 ‘A Tale of Two States-The Indian Elections 2019’


Fiction tries to make sense. Truth is burdened with no such responsibility as truth itself is a responsibility, but that everyone dreads.

George Bernard Shaw famously said that “Politics is the last resort for the scoundrel.” And hmm... that’s an interesting observation, to say the least. But then nowadays, some say that it is not the last but the first resort for many across the globe.

But for me it does appear as the last. Otherwise, why do you think I would be writing on politics? Being apolitical and generally not dabbling in politics or writing on politics, if I am resorting to write this blog, it says much – that I do not have enough assignments on hand that should keep me engaged and my mouth shut! And also that I am becoming more and more interested not in politics per se’ (I shall remain apolitical) but the management aspects of the politics are fascinating to me. Sigh...

23rd May, 2019 closed with the by and large already expected results of the parliamentary elections in India.

The citizens have given another thumping mandate to Mr. Narendra Modi and his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party aka BJP. But in down south of India, from where I come, there have been interesting dynamics in play. Different players were elected in my native state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and my foster state of Tamil Nadu (TN).

I am refraining myself to write about other states in this blog with perhaps just a peripheral mention of a few more.

So, first it’s going to be about my foster state of TN. Here the party that won with thumping majority is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), who have forged a pre-election alliance with the now drubbed Congress party at the center and left to be the runner up. DMK, while saying that it’s not against Hindus, propagated vociferously against the Hindutva during its election campaigning and canvassed vehemently against the BJP, the party that now won with a mammoth majority at the centre. In the process, it appeared that DMK has confused itself and the electorate too.

Yet, the result is that the people in the state gave the party a mandate to represent them in the central government. But that opportunity appears to be a redundant rendering, as the party is in the opposition and really cannot bring much direct benefits to the state. Thus they would not be able to show their mettle to become victorious in the following elections for the state during the year 2021.

Meantime, the present ruling party in the state, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), has forged an understanding with the BJP. In the next couple of years, the BJP, with development projects for TN, would either support their local ally and make them stronger or make inroads into the state on their own, as BJP got dismal results in the elections on its own.

So it is a wait and watch scenario in Tamil Nadu.

Telugu, the language spoken by the people of Andhra Pradesh (and of course in Telangana too) is called the Italian of the East, as it is the ‘Ajanta Bhasha’; the language where all words end with vowels. Not only is the language compared to Italian but the Telugus are also mostly like the Italians. Sensuous, family oriented, fun loving and yet un-forgetting and can be very vindictive if they want. Forgive they may, forget they will not. They have their own rules of Omerta. They generally do not have patience to wait for justice that takes a long time in the country. For most of them, the idea of justice is just an illusion. The Congress leading family, being of Italian native, should have known and remembered this fact.

During 2014, much against the wishes of the Telugu speaking people of both the states, Congress, the then ruling party, has divided the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh of 23 districts into two states of Andhra Pradesh (residual - how I hate this word even as I am typing this) and Telangana, just to placate the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) party which was demanding a separate state, and who Congress thought would be a great ally.

The politicians of Telangana might have benefited out of this ‘forced division’ but the people of both the states never forgave or forgotten this. And interestingly, the moment the state was split, the TRS distanced themselves from Congress almost in toto. And during the past two elections, the Congress was ruthlessly pushed aside, in AP with zero gains and in Telangana scrape through with about three seats.

This is one part. The second part is really cinematic.

It is a known fact that Late Rajasekhar Reddy died in a flight crash while in harness as the Chief Minister (CM) of the undivided Andhra Pradesh, representing the Congress Party. When his widow and his daughter (mother and sister of now CM designate Mr. Y. S. Jaganmohana Reddy) went to Delhi to meet the Congress Party President, apparently they were not only made to wait but also were not given sufficient time to relate what they wanted to say and for which they came all the way from Hyderabad to Delhi for. 
https://www.news18.com/news/politics/sonias-insult-reddys-revenge-curse-of-andhra-jagans-rise-is-filmier-than-fiction-2158419.html

A furious Jaganmohana Reddy vowed to end the Congress in AP, came out of Congress and started a new party - the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). As time passed, he had been arrested on disproportionate assets cases and had been incarcerated for about a year and half in jail, during which time his new party was nurtured by his mother and sister. Once out on bail, Jaganmohana Reddy tried to strengthen his party and by bonding with the people by undertaking ‘Paada Yaatra’ (foot marching) across the state, meeting the people of all levels and is alleged to have covered over 3,600 kms in the process.

Meantime the Telugu Desam party (TDP) was elected as the first state government after the splitting of the state in 2014 with people hoping that the Party's President Mr. Chandra Babu Naidu may re-work the magic he did in turning over Hyderabad into Cyberabad and providing jobs.

But many issues plagued the TDP party and its government.

At the time of the split, Andhra Pradesh, which started on a negative budget (and Telangana on the contrary with a surplus one) was promised a Special Category Status (SCS), a promise which could not be kept up by Congress as they were out of power in the subsequent elections and which, allegedly, ‘was not’ kept by the BJP, which came to power later. A sense of déjà vu prevailed.

There have been allegations and counter allegations back and forth that the central government did not support an emerging state and the central government blaming the state for not accounting for the funds thus far released. The truth may be buried forever or till the next opportunity when one party or the other could use it as a weapon. 

The biggest contention on this score being lack of required funds for the infrastructural development of a new capital necessitated out of the splitting of the state.

Like it is said that there were myriad causes and reasons for Karna’s death in the epic Mahabharatam, the decimation of the TDP, in the latest election, was due to many reasons but seems to be more self inflicted, with the cardinal error being the joining of hands with the Congress party. TDP’s supremo appears to have miscalculated the continued angry mood of people towards the Congress party for splitting the state. 
https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/tdp-routed-andhra-pradesh-five-reasons-led-naidu-s-downfall-102362

The second reason, perhaps, is the people’s disenchantment with the officials and their alleged corrupt practices. It is firmly believed by the majority of the public, of the state, that as the TDP was not in power for over 10 years before, the moment they came to power again, those close to the party, mostly of a particular caste who hardly are 5-6% of the total population of the state, apparently indulged in amassing wealth through contracts - syndicated or otherwise, illegal sand quarrying, real estate issues etc. Many openly criticised the chafing under the ‘oppressive caste’ and their unbridled high-handedness and utterances.

The third reason was inability to translate promises into action. While it might be true that the central funds were only trickles, credibility suffered as the leader kept on promising but pleading inability for lack of funds, while people were openly remarking the alleged corruption and amassment of wealth from public funds ans state resources.

The fourth reason could be that despite the proximity to the central government for nearly four years during which time the party, for whatever reason, could not get the central funds or a SCS for the state.

The fifth reason is while the opposition parties in the state were trying to bond more and more with the people of the state, the ruling party president was travelling more in other states working towards a coalition of all possible parties to oppose BJP and thus giving reason and vexation for the local people to feel neglected and that at the cost of state benefits, the party spent its time on an obviously unproductive national issue. The TDP president’s public speeches also apparently became more and more personal and sometimes vitriolic too.


The sixth reason could be Mr. Naidu’s style of working by micro management and continuous reviewing system. There are grumblings that many a time, the reviews are more than the work in itself. This continuous monitoring removed the responsibility from the lower echelons and put the onus onto the top management which became a terrible burden, as it has now been proven. In the wake, it also must have left quite a bit of disgruntlement among the babus!


The seventh reason is that Mr. Naidu is a non-believer (apparently) in populist schemes and did whatever such schemes almost under duress and only in the last year. The percolation effect needed time and perhaps, the time was not sufficient for the people and also the party to really benefit from the schemes fully.

I am surprised by this one action of Mr. Naidu for whose administration capability and visionary sense, I have immense admiration. How could he not read the writing on the wall? How could he not know which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn? Or has he decided that let this be the end and resigned to the fate? Only time will tell.

One thing that appears for sure is that within the state, the TDP will become a party to reckon with hardly anything anymore. As it is widely rumoured that Mr. Jaganmohana Reddy has some understanding with the central government, some of the following developments may be foreseen for the future.

Along with the Congress party, the BJP also has been almost mauled in both AP and TN, as many people in AP do believe that the central government did not support the state, when the support was badly needed and in TN several reasons are attributed like being non-dravida, rightist and then the Sterlite Industry issues etc.

Thus, the party would desperately, overtly or covertly, need to establish itself before the next elections in these states.

So, in AP, they would very likely start and release funds now, which were held back in the past few years for development work and brand such achievements among much ado and clamour and say that it is because of BJP, the development activities are happening, thus paving way for better seats and performance here for themselves.

They will also be concentrating on addressing some issues in TN like those of the farmers, the water and industrial growth, for instance.

They may attempt to resolve the long pending Cauvery issue but if my thinking is right, they will not push it too much as Cauvery is a sensitive issue, for any one’s comfort. Instead, they may extend the surplus water from Godavari to Krishna to Penna into TN (at least till Chennai), using their hold on AP government and name it as one of their achievements.

It should be borne in mind that poet Subrahmanya Bharati first wrote about connecting the rivers and later Late Atal Behari Vajpayee spoke about it. But the real credit for translation of this vision should go to Late N. T. Rama Rao of the then ruling party of AP, the TDP and the TN Government. Of course, late Indira Gandhi being from the central ruling government had to play a role of facilitation of this project called the ‘Telugu Ganga Project’.

Then came the ‘Polavaram Project’ of integrating Godavari and Krishna which was envisioned by Late Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy of Congress, the then ruling party of AP and almost completed by Mr. N. Chandra Babu Naidu, with or without much support from the centre.

The industrial growth in TN became stagnant in the past few years and this may also be addressed. After all, jobs need to be provided through these industries, not only for the locals, but also for people from other states of India, where the party won, making jobs a promise.  

All we have to do now is to wait and see and hope that, despite whoever gets the credit, the people shall benefit, even if people are fooled again in the process.  

And in a democracy, as long as the electors and the elected are not appropriately educated, people would continue to be fooled – again and again and again; till kingdom come.

‘Lokaa samastaa sukhino bhavanthu. Sarve janaa sukhino bhavanthu. Samasta sanmangalaani bhavanthu, Aum Santhi, Santhi, Ssanthihi’

(Let the whole universe be happy and comfortable! Let all the people be happy and comfortable! Let there be prosperity all around! Let there be peace, peace and peace!)

Swasti!   


Till again, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya and Nepalese), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic and Sudanese), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea), Malo (Tongan), Vinaka Vaka Levu (Fijian)

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 51 'Labours of the NSE'


At the outset I have to confess that this blog is not at all about me as presently I am occupied quite well but this is for many of the ‘NSE’s whom I am acquainted with. I also have to mention with happiness that things are changing in the country though not with the rapidity that is desired, especially by the ‘NSE’s. Okay here goes and if any of you feel zipped and let down please do pardon me for the pun.

What is the retiring age in India for an employee? 60years? 58years? Or 38 years? While the generally accepted retired age is 58 years and above, the present trend in the country, as reflected in most of the appointment advertisements, in the past few years (preferring candidates of not more than 38 years of age), seems to point at 38 years as the retiring age for normal mid level employment.

Certainly, the criteria, for choosing an employee, are the prerogatives of the employers in a highly skewed employment scene. But what about the “not so elderly (NSE)” persons who are forced to seek employment after 38 or even 58 for multi-various reasons? Does this mean that persons above 38 are redundant and useless?

If a person is, say, about 45 years of age today, one has to say that in his / her prime age the game rules were different. The education system, the employment system, the promotion system and most importantly the salary packages, were all totally different comparing to what they are today. There were different levels or grades at the employment level and even if you are under qualified or over qualified you were ensured of a particular salary quantum, applicable to that particular grade or level one was employed at. Unlike today, then the bargaining system, at the entry point, was almost unheard of. This has resulted in an average person getting a decent salary, out of which, after commitments, perhaps a small amount could be saved.

Now assuming that the same person is without a job at the age of 45 and is seeking re-employment with about 20 years or more experience, the task becomes Herculean. And how long will his meagre savings last, that too with the interest rates, on savings, falling steeply at regular intervals?

Not all the people, seeking jobs at this late stage of their age, are lucky enough to get a golden handshake or Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) benefits. In many cases, the employers find out or simulate a situation to find fault with the employee so that s/he can be packed off without any benefits except the statutory / mandated ones. It becomes a virtual shake-off. 

This person may have dependents like aged parents needing medical help, children at various levels of education or children of marriageable age, the house and vehicle loan equated monthly instalments (EMIs) to be paid for. If there are also credit card borrowings to boot, one can just imagine the plight.

And, adding to all these, is that there is no way he could have escaped taxation since all his income had been on paper. These are the circumstances, which force a NSE to seek a decent job, which can suit her/his financial requirements, at least to some extent, where s/he can use her/his skills with dignity and respect while certainly being useful to the organization too.

The first step one takes, while searching for a job, is to respond to the employment advertisements, either in the print media or on the inter-net, which anyway are thinning in general, where referrals are sought after (during our times, being referred / recommended itself was a disqualification and matter of loss of face among the peers). The next step is to approach the placement consultants. 99% of the time, the placement consultants’ opening gambit is “well, your resume is extremely impressive and we are sure that you will be an asset to an organisation. But we have to be frank. It is your age that matters, since there are not many takers. But let us see how we can help you.” With these words, one is very sweetly brushed off.

Yes, some of these 'NSE's might have health problems, but certainly not all. With so many becoming health buffs today, the health rate of these 'NSE's need not be an alarming factor. And, the prospective employers may stipulate a condition on good health, before hiring their services.

Is it all hunky dory with the organizations, which seek only young talent? Well, it need not necessarily be. In some cases, there could have been exceptional results, but in several cases, the youth hired may not have the required maturity for strategising. So is the case with foresight and sometimes hindsight too. Keeping this in mind, the organizations may think of hiring the services of the youth for executive positions and the experienced 'NSE's, for the planning and strategic positions, creating opportunities for both strata of people working as a team for the benefit of the organization. Mentoring and Training are excellent areas to choose NSEs, depending on the aptitude and field of experience the NSEs have.

But what is more alarming is the paradigm shift in the employers’ mind about their employees. There are bosses who consider that any employee, working under them continuously for more than three years, as a commodity which does not have a market. Gone are the days when the employers were happy with long standing loyalty etc. Sure, there are still employers who insist on steady persons, than jumping jacks or rolling stones. But such employers are steadily becoming a minority in the job market.

Such situations drive these 'NSE's to either become consultants (read ‘doing mostly nothing’) or take  jobs with organisations where salary levels are drastically lower or organizations whose credentials are not either proven or known, and in some cases resulting in erratic disbursement of salaries, if at all. As a silver line to the dark clouds, the insurance companies are providing employment by way of insurance / wealth advisers. Some of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) units, thankfully, are also hiring the services of these 'NSE's as Customer Service Officers or as Centre Trainers for imparting soft skills. But most of these BPOs are confined to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and a few in Chennai. So for people in other places the problem of re-employment persists.

When a nation could be governed by septuagenarians and octogenarians, for more than half-a-century, due to their intelligence and leadership qualities (sometimes despite those too but for brute force), enabling the country to surge ahead, even the private sector companies could benefit by considering the employment of 'NSE's who are mostly of half the leaders’ age. 

Here age alone need not be the criteria. It is the experience and also past responsibilities, performance and achievements that could be considered. Times are so rapidly changing that newer modes of working patterns emerge. I undertake foreign assignments like desk reviews sitting in a corner of my room in Chennai, India. I have been teaching for over four years without seeing a single student physically. And yes, I am a NSE (well in fact, I am as young as just a 25 :-) ).

But in this dog eat dog competitive world, 'NSE's also will have to augment their existing skills or acquire new skills like languages, technology, different professions and keep learning continuously. They have to constantly upgrade and keep reinventing themselves. There is a wealth of knowledge at the disposal of the youth; waiting to be disseminated. Making them teach would also prove the mettle of marketing and relationship building for the 'NSE's, many of whom, quite poor in those areas.

But with both the public and private sectors shunning them, should the 'NSE's continue their labour for re-employment, so that they could hope to lead the rest of their expected lifetime reasonably comfortably and with dignity? What do you think? Pray tell me!


Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya and Nepalese), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic and Sudanese), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea), Malo (Tongan), Vinaka Vaka Levu (Fijian)

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 50 "Education and Elections....."


“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school”                             
…………Albert Einstein

India is a country blessed by the Gods; whichever GOD you may have your faith in!

Otherwise, where else can you see almost 1.3 billion people of mixed cultures and of different languages co-existing to survive, under the leadership of mostly the un-educated and ill-educated, indulging in pettifogging and uncontrolled corruption?

The biggest blunder after the independence of India, in my humble opinion, is that education has not been made compulsory across all strata of people. It did not create a curriculum that is uniform across the country and that which reflected the ethos of the people and the country or which should have truly been useful to the people and the country alike. Bars were not appropriately set and raised, skill-building was considered traditional and civic sense was totally removed from most of the annals of the educational institutions and most importantly, the true empowerment was given a go-by, leaving behind, after some seven plus decades, a people who simply surge ahead as blind sheep (of course, exceptions always exist). We are a people with least good manners (at least a majority of us), with hardly any etiquette and with rarely a consideration for the others. Worst, we fail to question the right things and squabble on the wrong ones!

Those who wish to call me cynical may please do so, but I would also request them to kindly introspect after seeing the status of our traffic, the way we form queues if at all, the way we talk loudly in any place we are in, the way we break or at least try to break every rule that is made. Sadly, this holds true to mostly those who make these rules (especially) and are also supposed to implement. We have every law under the sky, but these laws also come with so many different interpretations that elongate the process of implementation, if at all, and result, more often, in lengthy litigation.

At the time of my writing this blog, India is having its general elections across the country. I went and fulfilled my mandate of voting but sadly, as in the long list of leaders to be elected, I found very few ‘cultured’ and ‘educated’ leaders in the true sense. Elections no more seem to be of the people, by the people and for the people. Nor is it of the educated and by the educated. It is now mostly of the rich, by the rich and for the rich – riches obtained in any which way. The election expenses have reached such stupendous heights that even if a good-samaritan wishes to contest elections, s/he simply cannot afford the costs.

Presently a stage has come in the Indian elections, where it is like the egg first or chicken first situation. Do you contest in elections so that you can make money or because you want to protect your money? So here’s how the vicious circle goes. If I take myself as an example (I am afraid I can’t take any other person for this for fear of libel or defamation), I have to work hard in some political party, catch the attention of the leaders, contest for small local positions initially, make my money and keep growing. A stage comes when I need to spend more and more for getting elected and staying elected. For that I need to earn more and more and for that I need position and power otherwise no pelf. So education is the last agenda I will have. Retaining power at any ‘cost’ is and will be my priority; throughout my political life. Elections in India, do not appear to be of any consequence to education and perhaps vice versa.

The real rich want to increase their wealth through businesses, for which they seek empowerment through education, networking and improving relations (also with politicians), nationally and internationally. It’s the pseudo rich, who now have found that politics itself is a good business, that indulge more in the politics.

Another mighty blunder, the governments so far have done, is not rationalising the qualifications for the politicians willing to contest in elections for positions of power. Age restrictions, educational levels, personal character, family life, lack of criminal records etc., do not seem to be of any consequence in the electoral process in the name of democracy and equality. There is no retirement for a politician. No educational qualifications. Is it not time for the country to seriously re-think of the same?

Similarly, we should have made education mandatory for voting too!

OK, we have earned independence after a great struggle in 1947. Perhaps, to give the benefit of the new founded happiness, of being independent of the shackles of servitude under a different race for two centuries, the first elections might have been conducted with eligibility for all to vote. However, the next elections onwards the government machinery should have mandated a minimum level of education to qualify for contesting to lead as well as for voting. This minimum level should have been steadily raised with every election.

Those who wish to criticise me for suggesting this without providing infrastructure for education, that’s precisely what I meant - a blunder; that we have not given adequate priority to true education in this country.    

You don’t need to take my word on this. The ASER 2018 (Annual State of Education Report) (http://img.asercentre.org/docs/ASER%202018/Release%20Material/aserreport2018.pdf) was released on the 15th January, 2019 which gave out facts on the progress or otherwise of education in the country. It is saddening to note that there are more than 50% students, across the country, who are in standard VIII could not do simple calculations that should be done by standard II students. How were they allowed to reach standard VIII then? Because of faulty education policies, and / or by cheating in the exams? But then who are you cheating, really?

There have been good tidings and bad news which I tried to wade through as below:

Good Tidings
Bad News
Since 2007, the enrollment of children for the age group 6 to 14 has been above 95%.
Slightly more than half of all children enrolled in standard V can read only upto a Std II level text. This figure has inched up from 47.9% in 2016 to 50.3% in 2018
The overall proportion of the ‘out of school’ girls in the 11 to 14 age group has fallen to 4.1%.
Of all children enrolled in standard VIII in India, about 73% can read just a standard II level text. This number is unchanged from 2016.
The percentage of children (age 6-14) enrolled in private school was 30.6% in 2016 and is almost unchanged at 30.9% in 2018 – one perhaps can perceive that government schools are patronized more?
Only about 44% of all children in standard VIII can solve a 3-digit by 1-digit numerical division problem correctly { arithmetic test assesses whether a child can recognize numbers from 1 to 9, recognize numbers from 10 to 99, do a 2-digit numerical subtraction problem with borrowing, or correctly solve a numerical division problem (3-digit by 1-digit) }
Among children enrolled in standard III in government schools, the ability to read show an improvement of more than 5 percentage points over 2016 levels, in six states (Punjab, Haryana, Mizoram, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Kerala).
Nationally, in 2018, 4 out of 10 government primary schools visited had less than 60 students enrolled
About 8 out of 10 schools had a playground available for students, either within the school premises or close by
Physical education teachers are scarce in schools across rural India. Only 5.8% of all primary schools and 30.8% of upper primary schools had a physical education teacher available.
Nationally, substantial improvements are visible over this 8-year period in the availability of many school facilities mandated by RTE.

The fraction of schools with usable girls' toilets doubled, reaching 66.4% in 2018.
The proportion of schools with boundary walls increased by 13.4 percentage points, standing at 64.4% in 2018.

The percentage of schools with a kitchen shed increased from 82.1% to 91%, and the proportion of schools with books other than textbooks available increased from 62.6% to 74.2% over the same period.
In Jammu and Kashmir and most of the north-eastern states, less than 50% of schools had provision for drinking water or girls' toilets available in 2018

Average teacher attendance has hovered at around 85% and average student attendance at around 72% for the past several years in both primary and upper primary schools.

Yes, yes, I know that what is good for me may not be good and what is bad for me need not be bad, for others. As my dear old colleague Mr. K. S. Parameswaran often used to say, it depends on which side of the table you sit to determine what and who is right or for that matter wrong.

As per the Labour Report of 2007, the Indian youth were simply unemployable. While 90% of the employment opportunities required skills, 90% of our school and college outputs have only bookish knowledge {Info courtesy: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Indian-youth-are-simply-unemployable-Report/articleshow/2526720.cms} and that too very rickety.

Everyone is shaped by a Teacher! {Info courtesy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6oYyyrV2q4}. But how good the teachers are, is the big question!

There has been a steady decline in passionate teachers getting an opportunity of their choice. With limited exposure and limited knowledge, how good the teachers are able to train the next generation? Is it not the duty of the government, led by the leaders, to strengthen this institution by training the trainers (ToT) who will attend the trainings for the sake of trainings and not for the sake of networking or for the meager allowances they are entitled for? This is a generalised question while I do recognise that there always are passionate and dedicated teachers, but who seem to be few and  far and absolutely exceptional.


Now, now, before those who hastily criticise me for not being patriotic and for criticising our own people, I wish to very clearly clarify that I am no less a patriot than any other and this is out of anguish and a total concern for our people, our children and our followers in the next generation, that I am writing this as a loud introspection.


I am apolitical and am not against any political party. However, I am deeply concerned at this trend in education in the country and would wish that any party coming to power would seriously think about the present state of education in the country and do the needful to set it right, so that the future of the country would be better, stronger and secure. 

Because, if the present trend of education continues for just one more generation, there is a great danger to this great country becoming blind to the right and appropriate knowledge and could lead to a situation where the blind would lead more blind and inevitably nobody could reach the destination, if not for providence.

After all, we should realise that in the end, our society will be defined by not only what we refuse to destroy, but also from what we have or have not created!

So educated elections or continue the present system, bickering as crickets would stridulate? What do you think is a better option?

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Odhiya and Nepalese), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic and Sudanese), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Deu (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea), Malo (Tongan), Vinaka Vaka Levu (Fijian)

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India