Almost daily I come across various events : some person asking me a question seeking clarifications; sometimes I attend meetings where there are questions brought out to the speakers but answers given by them are inadequate or else make me think about a new aspect; I read newspapers or a new article or even an old book again and I get a new perspective; there are events in daily life when one is a silent spectator but mind keeps working, even many days after the event.
I live those events. Many thoughts sytematically come to me. A number of them donâ€™t get erased also. I realised that most of such unerased thoughts have relevvance to others as well, because I often find that different people repeat such questions to me. Why not then write briefly on them and share with all of you.
It is against this background this series is attempted. The aim is not to write an exhaustive article but to give sufficient information to share my thoughts. Those who need more information or think differently are requested to give the feedback through this website.
01] PLUTOâ€™S â€œDEATHâ€ AND NAVAGRAHAS
I had received many queries about Pluto, individually and even in meetings or during my talks. I think most Indians who donâ€™t bother about space sciences or planetary systems or solar systems suddenly became active. Though they would not admit it, much of this â€œknowledge â€“ seekingâ€ was, I think, due to their internal fears about their own fate being â€œshapedâ€ by these â€œnine planetsâ€ (or navagrahas) ! So much of a feeling on insecurity !
An intelligent and capable technologist, a young woman, was the first to phone me as many persons were asking her about navagrahas and Pluto being downgraded. I explained to her the following : -
The navagrahas of the Indian astrology are not the planets as mapped in the solar system by the modern astronomers / or space scientists. For example, Moon is one graha in astrology whereas it is a satellite of the planet Earth. Sun is a graha in the real world as mapped. Earth is a planet of Sun. Rahu & Ketu are two mathematical points related to the relative motions of Sun, Moon and Earth. Thus the mapped & scientifically classified planets are different from grahas.
Thus whatever calculations are done in Indian astrology have nothing to do with discovery or otherwise of â€œnewâ€ planets. They have their own definitions, calculations and inferences. Therefore those who want to believe in the astrology, can continue with their belief systems.
Now coming to what happened to Pluto.
Solar system has formed billions of years ago. All the planets around the Sun had formed long ago. There was a time when the Human did not know it and believed in various theories like flat earth. Ancient Indian astronomers have understood the relative motions of Sun, Earth, Moon & Stars. The visible Venus, Mercury, Mars etc were identified by them.
Later Galileoâ€™s observations led to modern scientific description of the solar â€“ planetary system. With availability of more powerful telescopes more bodies going around the Sun were â€œdiscoveredâ€. Note no new creation of planets circling around the Sun is taking place now for many millions of years. So the hundreds of small and big bodies circling around the Sun are there for many many years. It is only the question of their â€œdiscoveryâ€. With the launch of spacecraft exploring the planetary system our knowledge about many more orbiting bodies around the Sun have grown. There are several tens of such bodies, who can be called a planets of the Sun. It is in view of this huge number, astronomers tried to do some â€œnormalisationâ€ to the terminology planet. In that definition Pluto got downgraded.
Those who need more information have to visit some authentic websites or can ask me. I will try to get clarifications from my astronomer friends like Prof. Kochhar, Director, NISTADS, New Delhi.
02] CAN DEVELOPED INDIA BE FREE FROM DISABLED CHILDREN ?
During a lecture talk by an eminent person, a young person asked a question : â€œIn my village there are five disabled children. Will such disabilities disappear in the developed India 2020 ?â€ There was a quick answer, as there were many more questioners waiting in the que.
It made me think further. It is but natural for human beings to aspire for a life without defects, without unknown risks, without many ugly things which ourselves would like to avoid in our own personal lives.
In fact the feeling of insecurity felt by many â€œeliteâ€ Indians with the â€œloss of Neptuneâ€ was because the â€œfeeling of security about the futureâ€ felt through astrology and the related â€œcorrectiveâ€ prescriptions given by the astrologers would become questionable or â€œshakyâ€.
When we see the physically or mentally challenged person, we feel â€œshakenâ€. When we hear somebody has a cancer, we feel terrible. â€œHope I donâ€™t get itâ€ is the internal feeling. We feel worried about so many things we do. Smoke or drink or a paan parrag ! Or even the masala in our food ! Or the food preservative in the packaged food we eat !!
Yes we all want a total security of all good things we possess now ! Not to be reminded of bad things in life! If they exist now they should disappear by magic !
The young studentâ€™s question has come about because we all have developed and nurtured an attitude to life as described in the earlier paragraph.
The reality of life is that there are about 10 persons with genetic defects out of 10,000 persons born. The defects are of various forms: visual defects, diabetics, cardiac, physical, mental etc. Genetic sciences and engineering advances may help cure some of these defects after birth. But to screen them out when the life is in the foetus state raises many ethical questions.
Of course beyond these genetic defects, there are other defects which develop after birth like polio, rheumatic heart disease etc.
Biomedical advances are helping to overcome both these forms of defects : genetic and post â€“ birth infections/problems.
However, their availability to ordinary persons in India is still a question mark. Either they are very costly or the delivery systems are poor. There are a lot of good people through their philanthropy reach out to the disabled specially challenged persons. But these are in 100â€™s and 1000â€™s, while in India the affected persons are in many millions and every year more and more are added. Old age also adds more people in the physically challenged groups.
Therefore, the answer to the young studentâ€™s question is a little long :
It is not easy, at least from the present advanced in th4e medical and life sciences worldwide, to ensure that there will be no birth with defects. There are also many important ethical questions in prior screening of all pregnant women for possible defective foetuses.
However as the society develops with economic strengths, which India hopes to be by 2020, it is possible to provide biomedical treatment and/or support systems so that the children with such challenges need not be constrained severely in their own growth. They could be given support system to learn skills and other knowledge forms so that they can participate in economic activities in equal footing and be socially accepted as equal members. The buildings, transportation systems, office environment etc can be such that specially challenged persons are able to access the places of work or places of social interaction.
Advances in neuroscienceâ€™s are also capable of helping mentally challenged children or persons and those with speech defects or some neurological disorders.
Yes, the scientific and technological advances and economic growth are all towards enabling every human being to have a better life. But all of use have to be alert to ask ourselves whether our societies are having such all inclusive approach or not. We should build â€œpositive pressureâ€ to move towards such actions.
03] ROBOTS AND IMPACTS ON JOBS
Most of us will be under the impression that robots are of no consequence to India for many years to come. There are considerable actions in automation in industries, but robots seem to be way off.
If we look at our post-independence history, we seem to be resisting many technological changes under one pretext or another : it is too much of a luxury; we are culturally different we wonâ€™t need it; we can find a different path; it is dangerous for us etc. Finally we miss the bus of being in the frontline and rush later when others have mastered the technologies and businesses or reaped the benefits.
I will give some example.
Introduction of TV and colour TV in India : we missed a revolution in electronics industry and rushed during the time of Asiad games.
Pills for family planning saying it wonâ€™t suit Indian women and we will discover, of our own. We would have controlled our population better and thus derived the benefits of better prosperity in per capita. There is no Indian unique birth control device !
Microelectronics manufacturing in India.
Automobile revolution and resultant benefits becoming a manufacturing hub we delayed at more than a decade.
Liberalisation of economy stating that our planning was better. We delayed it more than one decade after China.
Accepting telephone as a house hold necessity or for offices â€“ we controlled telephones !
The list is too long.
Same may happen in the front of robots.
Look at a brief article by Mukul Sharma in Times of India â€“ 15/1/07. In American homes robots by the name Roomba are already in two million households beginning from 2003; it does vacuum cleaning work. It has become a â€œpart of the familyâ€ for many homes. Japan is gearing to sell millions of robots in Industrial work, home services, health care and military services. South Korea plans to place one robot in each of the South Korean home.
Watch out for a news five years from now. China may come up with its model of robot and sell to the industrial world and domestically. Then we may wake up !
Presently neither government system nor corporate sector in India considers it worthwhile to mount a joint effort to create an India.
Many such â€œhotâ€ items are waiting to be started; Two exmaples :-
â€“ Titanium plant (India has largest reserves of titaniunm)
â€“ Integrated coal gasification plants
Let us forget that and consider what is the effect on ordinary Indians? A few thousands of Indian boys and girls who take Robotics as a part of their studies in Engineering & Technology, may benefit in terms of jobs abroad as manufacturing in the developed world picks up.
But a large number of ordinary Indians who go abroad to Gulf countries and other parts of the world, may lose their source of employment. Indian nurses go all over the world. Those who are already there may learn to work in a healthcare environment which has integrated robots as an important part of the system. Some may have to come back. The new set of nurses who aspire to go, may not be eligible if they do not learn how to operate robots or work with robots.
â€œDonâ€™t worry! Indians are great in learning. They have mastered so many things now !â€.
This is only partly right. There is a heavy competition from other coutnries. Robots definitely would reduce the need for â€œloweredâ€ skilled manually oriented jobs, quite considerably, if not drastically yes new jobs in â€œrobot servicingâ€ â€œrepairingâ€, â€œcustomised programmingâ€ etc may be created. They will be in higher levels. But those jobs will require â€œtechnically more qualified and trainingâ€ personnel.
Already job opportunities for bottom Indians (i.e. about 90% who do not have higher educational or technical skill qualifications and about 70% do not go past 8 years of school) are becoming low. Even our road construction sector employs less of â€œpurely manualâ€ labour. So we need to watch.
Will we prepare ourselves to skill at least thousands of our ordinary persons to learn to use robots in anticipation of such demands coming up (presently no so visible!).
Currently many Indian industries who are rushing up (after about two decades of inertia) to equip themselves with computer controlled machines (CAD/CAM/CNC etc) in their manufacturing operations to keep up with global quality standards. They do not find enough qualified persons; those who are trained jump jobs. On other side there are hundreds of unskilled persons.
So let us prepare Indian labour/bottom level Indians not only for the present immediate demands, but also for keeping them ready for future demands. It is not enough to look at growth statistics in Agriculture, Manufacturing or Services or the number of Research Publications or Patents.
We need to equally count the Skill Levels of bottom 70% Indians, how many persons are upgraded each year, how much their incomes are going up at individual levels. It is not wise to have them to market forces in an era where technological changes are too rapid and high-tech businesses introduce products in an amazing speeds of millions ! Countryâ€™s wealth cannot go up, if botton 70% are prepared to be equal partners for this new economic reality. Then alone we will be truly Empowering Indians.
O4] ELITE WORRIES, INTERESTS
If one looks at print and electronic media, especially the so-called â€œnationalâ€ media, one gets a feeling that India is a small country made up of one or two big cities. Partly imitating them and partly due to the fact that electronic media in Indian languages are mostly controlled by the big networks, the interests of the Indian language press, remain the same.
Prime space (or time in TV) goes to murder, rape and other violence. (May be the readers desire a strong pep up every morning through newspapers and a stronger doses of these when they return tired from office !).
Other issues range from Jessica Lal case opening conscience to Shilpa Shetty rousing Indian â€œnationalismâ€. Around the time when Jessica Lal case was going on a former Chief Justice V N Khare wrote as to what happens for lakhs of such cases in the Indian courts. He had given pointers to possible removal of such a situation. But for the â€˜elitesâ€, all the ends of justice have been met, conscience washed up with Jessica Lal verdict â€“ triumph of media and people power ! Let those lakhs of other Indians remain where they are ! They do not belong to their class !!
All those who flock to UK, USA, Europe for holidays, shopping, studies and future settlement etc suddenly find how racist British are ! Our jingoism spreads all over â€¦.. well then each one of the elite gets immersed in their own money â€“ winning, power â€“ capturing, privileged â€“ access generating activities.
I have seen at the time of â€œSurat plagueâ€ how much was talked about, printed about, â€¦ cleanliness in towns etc. So many of them at the airports and railway stations were popping up anti-biotics to save themselves from â€œplague deathâ€. Govt. systems of monitoring rat movements to public health systems were all acused of serious neglect of their duties â€¦â€¦â€¦ well nobody knew what the Surat epidemic was; plague or something else. Thank God, it subsided. All the national noises subsidedâ€¦â€¦ to jump into some other â€œhot mirchi masalaâ€ â€“ Any other political pop-shows continue !
It is another story that there was one Rao in Surat, who cleaned up Surat â€¦â€¦â€¦ There was lot of praise, paper (noise) protests against his transfer posting on promotion.
But what about 100 â€“ odd cities like Surat (not to talk of the rapidly growing slums in the Metros) whose conditions as squalid as it was before or even worsening : garbage; feces; gutter water,â€¦â€¦.. Are there not large possibilities of their becoming sources of another unknown epidemic ?â€¦â€¦
Who finally cares ? I think that elite and the rich believe that they can be saved from such diseases through modern medical treatments available through their money power or influence.
Even bird flu s wonâ€™t scare them to action to clean up their own neighbourhood. Somehow huge noises in media appear to be the equivalent of taking concrete actions. Let the clean up be in their â€œbytesâ€ and Column spaces !
â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦ Well I am not a party pooperâ€¦. By all means let the elite enjoy themselves in every form of infotainment outside and inside the media: TV, FM radio, newspapers, magazines etc.
But in between let them address some of the real issues of 70% of Indians in concrete ways â€“ other than the dramatised forms about the farmer suicides or serial killings â€¦.. Let us there be a serious dialogue of how to solve the concrete local real â€“ life problems, And also reports on real successes at the local levels (not the PR exercises of big agencies or celebrity individuals).
May be some elites who read this (probabilities are low ! But those who read this, if convinced, talk to the elites !) may think I am in the 19th century or early 20th, But let them be clear : 21st Century is going to the â€œCENTURY OF THE POWERLESSâ€. The power of information, IT,TV, mobile phone etc., is going to impact a few within the elite (to wake up) and many of the powerless â€“ not to be fooled any more ! I donâ€™t want to use the old cliched word : â€œrevolutionâ€. But you cannot bottle up the natural evolution of millions of human beings through the â€œvirtual unrealitiesâ€ of PR and media management too long.
The powerless will not keep quiet too long !
So elites, change yourselves in your own self â€“ interests.
05] HOLES IN SOCKS
There were reports in some newspapers showing the photograph of Mr Paul Wolfowitz President, World Bank, focussing on the holes in both of his socks. Also a small explanation of the two photographs emphasised also his six digit salary.
Any impression of the photographs, titles, and description would mostly be, how sloppy he is; how undignified he is ! May be the photo-news was a fun.
After seeing it, I admire Wolfowitz for two things and my respect for him soared :
(i) His going to a Mosque, though he is not a Muslim and following the Code of Conduct.
(ii) He is not a part of the overly consuming society which wants to reject everything â€“ too often for any flimsy reason.
My reasons :
If we are sincere about peace in the world, we have to learn to be inclusive of all cultures â€“ between countries and within countries.
If we want a sustainable prosperity for all those who live in this earth, we need to learn to curb our consumption and not waste things unnecessarily. How does a hole near the toes reduce the utility of the socks ? Let us ask some basic questions.:
Now I believe in Mr Wolfowitzâ€™s sincerity to fight corruption. May God give him the strength.
06] CRICKET COVERAGE
The media furore over cricket coverage has won. Indian Government has taken a decision and is following up with an ordinance.
One is amazed at the turn of national priorities.
A cartoon in one of the newspapers sums it all. A figure like the I & B Minister gives a big play card to a figure looking like Prime Minister to hold. It is written there CRICKET FOR ALL. On the floor there are many thrown â€“ away play cards : FOOD FOR ALL, EDUCATION FOR ALL, HEALTH FOR ALL, SHELTER FOR ALL.
Probably opium is a better feed for masses (or elites and their folloers).