Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bhopal Notes :: 41 :: Days are numbered for fancied Upper Lake


Nobody seems to be overly rattled by the threat of the Upper Lake disappearing in the next twenty years unless proper care is not taken of it and its catchments. That the Lake was under this kind of a threat was mentioned by Saswat Bandyopadhyay, Professor in the faculty of Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), a reputed training and research institution based at Ahmedabad during an interview with a local vernacular daily. He was here in connection with a seminar on Smart and Resilient Cities Integrating Approaches. He has a number of years of experience in the field of urban infrastructure and environmental management.

Apparently, because of his close association with the preparation of the master plan for development and conservation of the Upper Lake on behalf of the CEPT that was given the consultancy for the purpose by the state government he was asked questions relating to future of the Lake. It may be recalled that the CEPT prepared the Master Plan after a detailed study of the Lake and its catchment areas and submitted the same to the MP Government in 2013. The report is stated to be under examination since then. One wonders how many years a government with its huge paraphernalia should take to examine the report and a plan submitted by the consultants whom it had appointed - what is under submission is, after all, not rocket science that is beyond the comprehension of the government. It must be something more than what meets the eye – something that smells very, very fishy.

Bandyopadhyay’s interview revealed something dark and sinister about the Lake. He said that if steps were not taken in accordance with the Plan submitted by CEPT the Lake could disappear in the next twenty years. In this connection, one recalls that three researchers from three different universities had studied the Lake in detail a few years ago and had opined that unless conservational efforts were made the Lake could disappear in around eighty years. Obviously, during the intervening period, the time available to restore the Lake has appreciably shrunk and it has now come down to only twenty years. Quite clearly it is terminally sick and given the government’s couldn’t-care-less attitude it could die within the lifetime of numerous of those who drink its waters (of course, after treating it) and haunt the Boat Club on its shores for entertainment and recreation.

While the Mayor, who is the chairman of the Empowered Committee for conservation of the water body, got rattled – but only for a short while – there has been no reaction from the state government. In so far as the state government and its concerned departments are concerned the words of Saswat Bandyopadyay seem to have fallen on deaf ears. There seems to be an ill feeling in the government against the CEPT represented by Bandyopadhya for the simple reason that his report refused to say what the government wanted to hear. Hence the report has been suppressed and is likely to be killed by sheer inaction. The government wouldn’t mind its money going down the drain if the political objectives are not met.

 Because of the unconscionable delay the Citizens’ Forum had appealed to the National Green Tribunal to issue directives to the government to make the report public. Though it has been shown to the NGT, and that was more than six months ago, yet it has not been made public. Clearly, the government does not like the report; if that is the case nothing prevents it from rejecting the report. But no, it has taken to the typical bureaucratic way of allowing it to gather dust and rot.

While Mayor has called a meeting of the Empowered Committee reportedly after 27 months the report seems to have provoked a reaction from the government’s Environment Planning and Coordination Organisation (EPCO). A so-far-unknown Wetland Conservation Authority functioning under the EPCO seems to have woken up and has called a meeting of all government stakeholders of the Upper Lake. One wonders where this Wetland Authority was all these years and why it was kept hidden from public view by the powers that be and what exactly it has done to prevent degradation of the Lake. Anyway, its meetings may hardly yield anything positive as it is the political head of the state that has to take a decision in respect of the CEPT report.

Saswat also seems to have said that the (ill) effects of inaction on the CEPT report will be visible in around five years’ time. Besides, the unrestricted construction and encroachments in the catchments of the Lake will also reveal their impact around the same time. That construction is going unabated is apparent as I can see new clusters of light across the shores little away from Bishenkhedi.  According to Saswat, natural flow of water into the Lake is being hampered and, obviously, unless this is checked its Full Tank Level (FTL) is going to shrink as also its catchment area. He also mentioned that since the Lake straddles the districts of Bhopal & Sehore it is difficult to coordinate action for its conservation. The people of Sehore do not drink its waters and, hence, they merrily carry on with their chemical farming.

The newspaper pointed out in brief some of the issues that are there in the CEPT report. From it, it seems, what got the goat of the government was perhaps the recommendation to ban construction and housing projects inter alia in Bhauri and Phanda where heavy constructions have already taken place. Bhauri was developed as an institutional area against the advice of Late Mahesh Buch who was against implementation of projects there as the place had no water. True enough, sometime back there was a proposal to supply water to Bhauri from the Upper Lake. In Phanda Aakriti builders were handed over a huge area of land where low rise housing is coming up. Similar allotment of lands was made to others too for housing projects knowing full well that the area fell in the catchment area.

The business of allotment of land and construction on them provide attractive spin offs for the greedy politicians, bureaucrats and sundry minions. And hence the CEPT report is just not acceptable, especially when the next election is round the corner. In making such an allotment some years ago to Chirayu Hospital and Medical College near Phanda the politicians, bureaucrats and municipal officials revealed their greed and exposed themselves to ridicule. The frontage of the hospital gets flooded even if the town gets below-average rainfall. It is situated plumb in the catchments of the Lake.

Hence, the Upper Lake’s is a gone case. Its sources Kolhans and Uljhawan rivers will be exterminated starving it of water and eventually leading it to its death. The local government with its greedy politicians and bureaucrats in active collaboration with the real estate lobby will see to it that the Lake succumbs to the multi-pronged assaults made on it.

*Photo from internet

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Disappearing freedom of expression


Rama Chandra Guha, free-thinker, author and historian
Ram Chandra Guha, a free-thinker, author and a historian who has authored numerous books on Indian History and random societal matters, recently enumerated eight reasons why Indians cannot speak freely. He says India is a 50-50 democracy. It is democratic only in a few respects and it is not so in many other respects. He says the country is free in respect of conduct of free and fair elections and movement within the country. It is, however, only partly democratic in other ways. “The democratic deficit” that largely occurs is in the area of freedom of expression.

According to him, there are eight ways freedom of expression is being threatened. Analysing the whole gamut of connected issues, Guha cites retention of archaic British-era laws, a faulty judicial system where the lower courts, particularly, are too eager to entertain petitions seeking ban on individual films, books and a variety of works of art, the rise of identity politics, especially of the regional kind, behavior of the police force which generally sides with the “goondas”, pusillanimity of the ruling class in decision making, particularly when votes are at stake and dependence of the media on the government for advertisements as some of the ways in which freedom of expression has been brought under threat, even curtailed.

Guha’s analysis is unexceptionable. I have purposely not dilated on all the ways that he thinks freedom of expression is being denied in the following paragraphs only to keep this discourse short. I, however, wish to write about the last one as it has hit me, and I am sure many others, at a personal level. I find myself in tune with the last one as I have experienced the denial of my right of expressing my views on local and other wider issues.

 I am a casual writer and took to writing after retirement from the Government of India. To start with, the lack of civic amenities in Bhopal provoked me to write letters to the editor of the Central Chronicle, then the only English language newspaper in Bhopal with substantial local content but with limited circulation. In those early days I had no computer and I used to bang away on my portable typewriter the deficiencies in performance of the civic body. Twenty years ago the public bodies and other utilities were far more inept than they are today and there was much to write about. Most of the times the letters would not have any effect but some would go home and yield some results. That itself gave a great deal of satisfaction.

 The postal system was reasonably good in those days and my letters to the Central Chronicle on local issues would get published within two or three days. The ones that I used to send on wider issues to The Statesman in Calcutta would take five or six days to be published if the newspaper’s editor, the venerable Mr. CR Irani, happened to put his seal of approval on it. I was gratified to see that some of my letters would occasionally lead the letters column on the Centre Page of the Statesman. That was a huge matter for me, and I would indulge in some slapping of my own back. The electronic media had till then not made the kind of inroads in the area of journalism as it has done now. The Statesman was then in a healthy state and used to be published from New Delhi and Calcutta and its Centre Page occasionally used to carry letters of readers in two whole columns

Soon the Hindustan Times came to town. And, perhaps, simultaneously, I acquired a desktop that made writing far easier. The newspaper had a four page city supplement which used to cover political, social news as also news from the world of fine arts and sports. Its editor, Askari Zaidi was a fantastic journalist who had a different kind of take on journalism.  He once happened to tell me that he thought that the newspaper and the city would gain and become richer if the local thinking people were given a platform. And he did that and, as far as I am concerned, there was never an occasion when my piece did not find the light of day in the Supplement.

 He, therefore, published articles from Late Mahesh Buch, Kripal Dhillon, former DG Police who was hugely concerned about the deteriorating quality of life in the city, Prof. Zamiruddin Ahmed who has a flair for writing in English as well as Urdu, RJ Khurana, retired chief of Joint Intelligence Committee of Government of India and so on. I too joined them and my first article entitled “The Dying Lake”, a hard copy of which I left at Zaidi’s office, was promptly published. I had written the piece as somehow the Lake appeared to me to be degrading and decaying. Mr. Zaidi published it with photographs and all. It was an out and out criticism of the way the Upper Lake, a great asset of the city, was being managed.

My honeymoon with the Hindustan Times continued for more than five years till, sadly, Mr. Zaidi had to leave. Since then the editorial policy changed and the newspaper would not publish unsolicited articles. Even the Times of India, which later started publishing from the town, adopted the same policy. At that time it was not clear whether this posture of the newspapers was adopted of their own accord or the management received directions from the local government. Now, however, it seems the print media is under threat of losing government advertisements were it ever to publish comments and opinion pieces that happen to be against the government.

 So we, all of us who happen to have opinions of our own and can ventilate them in our writings were effectively gagged. For some time I was terribly annoyed and peeved but could do nothing about it. People who used to read my columns would ask why I discontinued writing. I could only shrug my shoulders and say that my lips were effectively sealed. Sadly, the healthy Bhopal supplement that Hindustan Times used to bring out was scrapped and in its place what they came out with was nothing better than a rag. The same goes for the supplement of the Times of India which goes by the name of Bhopal Live – having more of Bollyood news than of Bhopal.

Print media, whether managed by corporate world or run on their own juice, are financially very vulnerable. While private sector ads seem to be running riot these days yet most of the papers hugely depend on government advertisements. Government is, therefore, a great beneficent for the promoters of print media. Scarce is a newspaper that cares little for the government ads. The net result is that a reader has no way to have his opinion published. Most people would have noticed that even the column of “letters to the editor” has been scrapped.  What has been provided is space for a measly few words through what they call “feedback”. So, even if on an issue one boils within with rage or gnashes one’s teeth one cannot communicate it to the people through opinion pieces or letters to the editor

Guha very rightly says that the dependence of media on government advertisements is especially “acute in the regional and sub-regional press. The state and political parties can and do coerce, suppress and put barriers in the way of independent reporters and reportage.” Quite logically, therefore, the guillotine fell on us and we were all gagged, our freedom of expression flying out of the window.

*Photo from internet

Friday, October 14, 2016

Rahul, Sonia - Like mother like son

Plummeting standards of political discourse in the country can surprisingly be largely attributed to its “Grand Old Party”, the Indian National Congress. Some years ago, its current president, Sonia Gandhi, called Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat, “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of death), hinting at his alleged role in the Gujarat communal riots of 2002. She, as the head of her supposedly secular party only had in mind the violence of Hindu “communalists” forgetting that they were reacting to the Godhra carnage that preceded and provoked it. If innocent Muslims were killed by the rioting mobs, the killings in the railway coaches were premeditated and had been preceded by elaborate preparations and were perpetrated on equally innocent travellers. When Gujarat riots are mentioned the killings in Godhra are hardly ever mentioned. In my opinion, these two tragic and unsavoury events should be mentioned in the same breath otherwise it wouldn’t be secular enough.

All that, however, is beside the point. What we came out to discuss was the plummeting standards of political discourse. Looks like, Sonia Gandhi threw the first stone, so to say. Now, years later, her son has made a similar goofy statement abusing the current prime minister in very crude terms. During one of his political campaigns in Uttar Pradesh he was reported to have said that Narendra Modi, the current prime minister, was hiding behind the blood of “jawans” (soldiers who were killed in the Uri attack). He went on to accuse Modi of indulging in “dalali” (brokerage) of army men’s blood – hardly anyone knows what that ment.

Apparently he could not, as usual, express properly whatever he had in mind. Predictably, all hell broke loose and soon thereafter a series of press briefings had to be conducted by his Party to clarify the matter and justify whatever utterances he happened to make. Presumably, in order to make the briefings more effective the Congress President asked Kapil Sibbal, a senior member and a highly acclaimed lawyer to boot, to meet the press. Briefings were just to put across what the Vice President  of the Party Rahul Gandhi had intended to convey which he apparently failed to do, giving rise to a barrage of barbs. Numerous statements were issued on his statements which were generally construed as insult of the Forces in an effort to politically attack the Prime Minister. His accusations were somewhat surprising in the background of his appreciative remarks earlier when he said that the surgical strike was the first PM-like action of Modi.

Nonetheless, the statements came in for adverse comments by political parties which condemned it as an effort to insult the “Army’s valour”. All round denunciation of his remarks came not only from Amit Shah, current president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, even Arvind Kejrival, no admirer of Narendra Modi, too criticized it. That the Army’s sacrifices and bravery was described as “Khoon ki dalali” was severely criticised by the Delhi chief minister. Also the Nationalist Congress Party president and a former Congressman, Sharad Pawar, too disapproved of Rahul Gandhi’s remarks about Modi Government “profiteering” from the blood spilt by the soldiers.

Even the greatest sycophant of Sonia Gandhi and Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad Yadav strongly criticized Rahul Gandhi’s remarks. He said Rahul failed to put across his views in a proper manner. However much Kapil Sibbal may have tried to justify the outburst of Rahul his pleadings did not convince anybody. He knew it and the Congress Party too knew it. Rahul had indulged in some shooting of the mouth out of his visceral hatred for Narendra Modi and that was clear. He hardly has any control over his thought process and much less on his expression. With his hatred for Modi and BJP he gets carried away when he occupies a pulpit and wants to hit both of them hard even if that happens to be uncivil and crude.

Attacking Modi seems to be a pastime with him. Modi, perhaps, presents a larger than life presence to him in front of which he finds himself far too diminutive – which, in fact, he seems to be. He is a reluctant politician and seems to have no mettle for it. His inferiority complex, regardless of the boost given to him by his mother and her sycophants, apparently, does not allow him to climb up to the political stature that his status in his party demands. All said and done, he is unequal to the job that has been chosen for him by his mother and the party over which she presides.

 Ever since Modi formed the government on his own steam, Rahul has been trying to nibble at him. With the kind of majority that Modi mustered at the hustings in 2014 he never had any worries and has consistently ignored Rahul’s jibes. Having no issues, Rahul started with the bogey of Modi’s suit worth Rs 10 lakhs (Rs. one million) that was a gift from one of his admirers. Modi wore it perhaps only once when Obama was in India and then had it auctioned where it fetched Rs. 4 crore (Rs. forty million). Then he started a campaign to run down Modi’s government calling it “suit boot ki sarkar” (a government of suited and booted gentlemen) and went to town telling people that such a government would do nothing for the poor. In the process, he would claim that he and his party men work only for the poor whereas this government worked merely for the rich. He clean forgot his grandmother’s slogan of “garibi hatao” (eliminate poverty) adopted more than forty years ago which was a fraud played on the people. Poverty continued to prevail as her government promoted nothing but corruption. Her daughter in-law much later had to initiate a poverty alleviation programme in 2004 through the newly installed United Progressive Alliance government which enacted Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Rahul Gandhi had also been criticizing Modi’s foreign trips telling the people that while the prime minister goes visiting foreign countries farmers continue to commit suicide at home. He made it appear as if the farmers’ suicides could be attributed to the prime minister’s absences abroad.  This was nothing but another way of running down the prime minister. One does not know whether he found a corner to hide when the reports in the press indicated that messages were received promptly after the Uri attack from the heads of most of the governments of the countries that Modi visited. During his trips abroad he developed personal relations with the heads of states/governments particularly of the West. No prime minister earlier was ever able to forge such close personal relationships with the leaders of the First World as also those of the Third World.

Despite his illustrious lineage Rahul has never been able to attain the heights of his elders in the family. His grandfather, Feroze Gandhi, was a remarkable parliamentarian and he had such guts that he could take on even his own father in-law Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister. He could do that because of his political acumen, innate ability, tenacity and integrity. Somehow, Rahul lacks all that and yet he is being made to strut around in the country’s political firmament as a political leader. His is not politics; his forte appears to be in slinging mud at those who happen to be in power.


*Photo from internet 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The "Surgical strike"


Indian Army in action in Kashmir
As I came back home that afternoon, my wife excitedly told me as she opened the door that there had been a “surgical strike” across the LoC (Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir). The TV was on and I asked her whether there had been any retaliatory nuclear bombings or missile (tactical or otherwise) attacks. She didn’t know. She had just heard of the “strike” when I rang the bell. I was expecting the worst.

 Surgical strikes meant getting into the enemy territory and excising the cancerous infestations. However charitable one might be, such a strike also means breaching the LoC that was sort of the international border which was a serious matter. The Pakistani terrorists were being pushed across the LoC but did the Pakistani Army ever breach it? No, perhaps not always; they only fired across it to spread a cover in the darkness of night to facilitate the Jaish or Lashkar or Hisbul terrorists’ to infiltrate. India crossing the LoC has been very rare and if it happened this time it was very unusual indeed.

The way the Pakistani Defense Minister was talking during an interview over a Pakistani channel just a day earlier I thought Delhi, independent India’s capital that was so seven times over and had melted away in the hoary past, had once again become history. He must have ordered a “jawabi mooh tor hamla” (a strong jaw-smashing retaliatory attack).  But this did not seem to have happened till then. No, it had not materialized; at least the news channels were not talking about it. They did not show any mushroom cloud over Delhi or for that matter, over Mumbai or any anywhere else in Indian territory.

Even after 72 hours there was no “jawabi hamla”. In fact, reports published say that the terrorist camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) had been shifted away from near the LoC after the army carried out the surgery despite the assurance of the Indian Director General of Military Operations to his counterpart in Pakistan that there was no plan for another such strike for the time being. However, while some terrorists fled away from near the LoC, a fidayeen strike took place near Baramula where an Indian soldier was killed and two of the unknown numbers of terrorists were gunned down. Others in the party seemed to have fled away. Though his proxies continue to be active in the Kashmir Valley, PM Nawaz Shareef, playing the victim, has been cribbing that a war is being forced on Pakistan.

That India decided to walk across the LoC was something that was unthinkable. For years we had observed the doctrine of “strategic restraint”. Of late, it appeared that the ISI proxies could march across the Line, inflict mayhem and get back with impunity. But we would stomach it all. Even the transgression in Pathankot did not elicit any reaction. We seemed to be playing by the rules: inquiring, collecting evidence and compiling facts that could prove Pakistan’s complicity and hand the dossiers to Pakistan. But Pakistan, or rather its Deep State, always procrastinated to respond if not rejecting the reports and evidences handed over to them. Even the 26/11 dossier handed over years ago has not been acted upon.
During Kargil conflict, the fourth attempt by Pakistan to wrest Kashmir away from India, too, our soldiers died but they were prevented from crossing the LoC. What is more, even the Indian Air Force when it was brought on to the conflict zone was asked not to cross the Line of Control. It was a full-scale war and yet there was this “restraint” in force. Perhaps the government was under compulsion as it was under the US sanctions imposed after the 1998 Pokharan nuclear test and did not want to attract the odium of being an aggressor

 This time, too, the Uri invaders had expected the same lukewarm response and had not factored in the anger that had been provoked as a result of the loss of as many as 19 of our army men in their cowardly attack. It not only broke the patience of the people as well as that of the Army and so, despite the threatened use of tactical nuclear weapons or whatever, the country took a calculated risk and the Army, supported by the strong political will, lunged into the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir which, in any case, is Indian territory grabbed by Pakistan, to neutralize the terrorists in their camps. That it did not hold on to the area says much about the grace with which the country acts even in the face of immense provocation. One might recall that after the 1965 War the strategic Haji Peer Pass practically overlooking the Uri town captured after a hardly fought battle was returned to Pakistan as a sequel to the Tashkent settlement.

But, despite the Indian Army’s one of the rare breaches of the LoC the nuclear toys of Pakistan seemed to have remained mothballed. And why wouldn’t they be so well preserved? Reports have been circulating that the North Korean atomic tests were, in fact, Pakistani bombs. Another report, I think of the Guardian, said the talk of use of the “tactical nuclear” weapons of Pakistan was premature as these were still not ready. While writing about it in the Guardian the correspondent forthrightly said that since its creation Pakistan had mastered the art of using bluff and bluster. The repeated threat by its Defense Minister and Security Advisor were nothing but hollow threats. After all even if they had them in their arsenal, their use would have entailed their country’s practical extinction with only some damage to India, mammoth as it appears and actually is when compared to their country.

That explained the absence of the mushroom clouds over India. But Pakistan’s Army is kind of a never-say-die character. Surely, they will keep trying some trick or the other in pursuit of their unfinished agenda of inflicting thousand cuts and bleed India dry. One cannot come across perhaps a more sadistic nation.

 *Photo from internet

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bhopal Notes:: 40 :: Inadequacy of healthcare in Bhopal


Hamidia Hospital Registration area - a much thinner crowd than what we came across
Being retiree of the Central Government I am a beneficiary of the local dispensary of Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS). This somewhat detaches me and others like me from the system of state government healthcare. I said “somewhat” as we too are not entirely free to seek healthcare from any quarter. The check is applied when new medicines or investigations are prescribed or hospitalization is suggested. At that point of time, unless there is an emergency, we have to go to a local State or Central government hospital for the necessary recommendations by a specialist. Bhopal CGHS has six doctors but none of them is a specialist. 

Such an occasion arose recently and my wife and I went to the Hamidia Hospital to visit the Orthopaedic out patients department (OPD). We were horrified to see the crowds at the registration area. There must have been around 500-700 people waiting for registration. Huge queues stretched from the general, women’s and senior citizens’ counters. Since both of us could not have stood all that while for registration because of our age and skeletal problems we decided to call it a day deciding to try our luck at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), a central government institution.

 We had been there once earlier about two years ago and were able to visit the OPD of an orthopaedic surgeon even though we reached the distant place around 10.00 AM. We reached this time too around the same time only to be told that registration had been closed at 9.00 in the morning after commencing at 8.00AM. The man at the counter told us that only 40 out-patients are registered because of limited availability of doctors and people wait outside from 3.00AM onwards. The counter officer suggested to us to try online registration. My wife tried that too to find to find to her shock that no orthopaedician was available till March 2017.

 Compelled as we were, we visited the private clinic of a senior orthopaedic surgeon of the Hamidia Hospital whose recommendations were promptly acted upon by the CGHS. The only difference was that we had to pay the government orthopaedician a tidy consulting fee for his labours in his private clinic. The CGHS does not act upon prescriptions of specialists from its own empanelled private hospitals in identical circumstances but, surprisingly, the medicinal and diagnostic recommendations of a government doctor made from his private clinic are somehow considered sanitised enough for it to act upon.

Such are the rules, call it hypocrisy or what you will. Another anomaly is that while one can avail of the treatment of an empanelled private hospital as an in-patient but one cannot do so as an out-patient. A specialist there is good enough to deal with any number of serious and life-threatening diseases involving costly investigations or surgical procedures but their recommendations/prescriptions handed out from their OPDs are not acceptable. That probably is because of governmental distrust of private hospitals because of their frequently reported unfair, greedy and exploitative practices. But, I am digressing.

My point was different. What I was aiming at was the utter inadequacy of the governmental healthcare system in Bhopal. The crowds for registration at two hospitals are indicative of that. One would be surprised if things happen to be different in other urban centres of the state. For that matter even the Red Cross Hospital which earlier used to appear better provided these days wears a look of inadequacy. There too a large number of patients were seen waiting for attention of a medicine man. Either that or there is total breakdown of public health that produces huge number of patients crowding around government hospitals where treatment is much cheaper. Those who can afford can go to corporate hospitals to get treated and/or looted but the poorer sections do not have that alternative or option.

 This is what is happening in an urban area – the capital of the state; what happens in the rural and remote areas is any body’s guess. Only sparsely distributed health centres, with inadequate number of physicians/surgeons and para-medics, attend to the needs of hundreds of thousands as out or in patients. Over-population, illiteracy and lack of awareness about sanitation and hygiene give rise to heavy incidences of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Deaths are frequent; not being rare, unlike elsewhere life is cheap here  No wonder, the likes of Dana Majhi have to admit his wife in a hospital 10 kms away and then walk back home lugging her on his shoulders after she unfortunately dies.

Two governments, one each of the Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, have had uninterrupted runs of 10 years each in the state, yet apparently they did not do a thing to improve the healthcare system of the state either in the rural areas or in its urban centres. Bhopal, for example, has a handful of government hospitals for a population of more than 20 lakh (2 billion).  At best there are only half a dozen government hospitals if you leave out the ones like those of Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd., Railways, Army, and the ones meant for victims of Gas Tragedy of 1984 etc. The city has expanded practically on all sides and all this must have taken place with the approval of the relevant government agencies. But there is hardly any government hospital that was planned for or built in these extended areas. One wonders what the Town and Country Planning organization and the department of urban development/administration or, for that matter, the department of health were doing. Apparently, the state progressively withdrew itself from its obligation of providing healthcare to a burgeoning population at reasonable costs and left avery large section of the population at the mercy of the rapacious corporate and other private hospitals. They hardly can afford the jacked up costs of such hospitals’ consultants’ fees or of medicines from their in-house pharmacists, or, for that matter, the numerous investigations that they mostly have conducted for raising their own revenues.

It is only now that the state elections are approaching that the state government is talking of augmenting the healthcare facilities. They have said that the Hamidia Hospital is going to have as many as 2000 beds. One wonders whether its rusty and creaky administrative organization would be able to manage such a huge establishment when it cannot manage the same hospital with 500-odd beds where replacing a broken-down old lift takes more than a year. It also does not have either a MRI machine or a CT scan machine. The machines that were reportedly procured for conducting angiography have hardly been put to use.

The government is also asking the Centre to transfer the Bhopal
Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC) to the state. It was a very well built hospital with well-qualified physicians and surgeons with the funds provided from the (measly) compensations paid by the Union Carbide Ltd. After the Trust that ran it was wound up it was tossed from one agency of the department/agency of the Health Ministry at the Centre to another that broke its back bone and landed it in an unholy mess. The mess that was created
was a fertile ground for the local corporate hospitals to poach its qualified and experienced specialists on payment of astronomical salaries. The mess continues and in this mess the state government wants to wade in mainly because of the hospitals excellent property. If ever the state government happens to control it the mess will be bigger and it may run as a close second to the messy Hamidia Hospital

Surprisingly, the government is aiming at big establishments when the needs are of smaller units located in various newly established localities. These could be like general hospitals providing the rudimentary first level of medicinal or surgical treatment. Every sick person need not visit a multi-speciality hospital as a large number do not need the attentions of specialists. Perhaps this way the patients would be treated in a better manner and the physicians/surgeons would be able to pay greater attention taking their time in examining and suggesting treatment to them The dreadful amount of waiting that common sick and suffering people have to undergo under present conditions need to be immediately addressed. Whether the government is able to do it will have to be seen. We may have to have a long  wait for its reaction too.

*Photos: from internet

Monday, September 26, 2016

Green Park, Kanpur


Green Park, Kanpur
Green Park at Kanpur where the 1st cricket test match between New Zealand and India was played is being  mentioned as one of the original test centres of India. This is not correct. The original test centres were only four – all in the four metros of Mumbai (then Bombay), Chennai (then Madras), Kolkata (then Calcutta) and Delhi (only if Delhi could be reckoned as a metro then). I distinctly remember in 1948 the touring West Indies team played five test matches in India at Brabourne Stadium, Bombay, Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi, Eden Gardens, Calcutta, Chepauk, Madras and again at Brabourne Stadium Bombay. Bombay got two test matches, both were played at Brabourne Stadium for the simple reason that Wankhede Stadium had not been built till then. The second test too was allotted to Bombay, presumably because no other centre was available where a test could be played. Besides, Bombay used to be the headquarters of BCCI.

Green Park was nowhere in sight in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was perhaps because of the efforts of Maharaj Kumar of Viziangaram, popularly known as Vizzy, that Kanpur became a venue. He used to reside in Benaras and when he became president of the Board from 1954-57 he swung it in favour of Kanpur. For a number of years Green Park used to have matting wickets – not the turf ones that were available in the four metros. In 1959, I remember, India won for the first time a test match against Australia and the venue was none other than Kanpur where for the first time a match was being played on a turf wicket. Jasu Patel, an off spinner took 14 Australian wickets in the match. Late Richie Benaud, who had captained the Aussie side, had described the Kanpur pitch as a mud heap – probably because it was a dusty turf.

Perhaps, Rajiv Shukla, the UP Cricket Association chief, got the match away to Kanpur. Actually, it should have been the privilege of Mumbai to host the 500th Test match and in that event it would have been appropriate to have it played at the Brabourne Stadium.

*Photo: from internet

Monday, September 19, 2016

Our life, our times :: 3 :: Our uncouth rulers


The other day a very shocking report of a professor being crudely talked to by a petty politician appeared in the newspapers. It was nothing but a despicable act on the part of a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) who was invited as a guest in a felicitation programme at an educational institution where a minister of the state government and a Member of Parliament (MP) too were present. The crime of the professor was that in the vote of thanks he raised he made mention of every dignitary except the MLA. Annoyed, the MLA crudely called out to him and spoke to him in a very unseemly and uncivil manner asking him as to why his name was not mentioned.

This happened in front of numerous people, including students. Running down of a teacher in full public gaze is something extraordinary and only the present-day politicians, hungry for power, pelf and publicity, can do it. This only shows the culture in the midst of which he was nurtured where no premium was placed on education or respect for those who were imparting knowledge and understanding to others. That the minister and the MP, superior elected political functionaries than the MLA, kept quiet and did not administer a public rebuke to him, too, was strange but was, perhaps, dictated by political necessities. It should, however, have been the duty of the minister to educate the MLA about how he should behave with a professor, a guru in Indian Hindu traditions which the BJP politicians constantly keep harping on these days, and how he needed to be revered and respected. For all one knows, perhaps they too are unaware of the age-old practices in dealing with those who were teachers, regardless of their level.

In our time we have seen how the students used to revere their teachers. My father was a professor in the college at Gwalior. Because of his educational attainments, his conduct and his ways with the boys and girls in the College he used to be highly respected. For years together he remained in-charge of all sporting and students’ union activities. His illustrious students like UN Dhebar, a former Congress general secretary, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former prime minister, would touch his feet whenever they came across him on the streets or elsewhere. To top it all, in pre-independence era, my father and a couple of other professors had occasion to go and meet the Maharaja of Gwalior in the latter’s office in Jayavilas Palace. As they were ushered into his presence Maharaja left his seat and stood up. In those feudal times this was something unheard of. He was the sovereign and the supreme ruler and all his subjects regardless of their rank bowed before him. His huge gesture only showed his breeding. Again, at Jabalpur my mother was taken to a function by my friend who used to be the Additional Collector. As she sat down, a man sitting on the dais climbed down and came straight to her sitting in the front row to touch her feet. She could not recognize him. It was Late Justice Shiv Dayal, Judge of the Jabalpur High Court. He told my friend that she was his “Guru-Ma” as her husband used to be his professor. Those were the days when the tradition of Guru and his pupil was maintained without making any song and dance about it like they do today. Today it may look or sound very esoteric but in those good old days these practices were normal and were observed as a matter of course.

Our venal, crude and half-educated netas to whom courtesy and tculture are alien have dumbed down everything, including the standards of behavior. As education was extended to the hinterlands of the cities with more and more schools being opened the standards of education were progressively diluted as the governments failed to correspondingly increase the number of quality teachers. As the new generations of untrained teachers were not equipped to deal with the children in schools, the standards of education as also children’s behaviour saw a continuing decline. Products of schools and colleges were as good as half-educated, country louts, particularly those who came out of government schools. Paying school teachers a pittance, too, did not help – the amounts sometimes are less than those of a government peon. Struggling and living from-hand-to-mouth existence, they are not able to maintain a dignified life in front of their wards. What is worse, these netas think nothing of them – themselves being riff raff, they take the teachers as such – behaving as if they are the lords of yore. Keen on self-publicity and making money on the side they have done nothing to improve matters relating to education in rural areas. No wonder education at the ground level is nothing whatsoever to write home about. Things have so drastically changed for the worse over the last sixty to seventy years. The government schools and colleges have become decrepit and unpopular which even the so-called economically weaker sections of society do not prefer to put their children in them

Earlier, a man’s education and his values were admired and respected. School teachers and college professors never had enough yet they were highly respected, the more brilliant, cultured and committed they were the more the pupils would have regard for them. The thing have become different today. People worship money and power, seemingly, shunning all societal values. No wonder one can see a keen race to make more and more money any which way – ethical or unethical – as that brings power and position of influence in society. A man’s money power can swing many things in his favour or in favour of those who are his boot-lickers. He can actually go lording over others regardless of his intrinsic worth.

 No wonder, the government is busy chasing unethical money the colour of which is black, the money that has severely damaged the country’s ethical and cultural value systems – with the venal netas being avid participants in the process.

*Image: from the internet