Wednesday, September 26, 2007

2.CONCERN: Is the Earth getting on the corporate balance sheet?

It is an imaginative advertisement that unleashes the power of wireless communication. Reliance Communications advertisement on the television uses three distinct frames - majestic snow clad mountain peak, sprawling sea with a swinging boat, vast desert with an insect moving across - to mirror the absence of air, land and water in that order. Nothing is lost, the musical tone forming the background score reassures that there is indeed `network' to proxy for everything else! Like a bikini, this amazing ad conceals more than it reveals. If clean air is not a marketable good with a price then the market places no value on it, the ad seems to suggest! However, if land and sea could fit into the corporate balance sheet the same must be appropriated using the emerging `network' albeit of politicians, bureaucrats and businesses.

From the Tata's controversial mini-car project that has displaced farmers in Singur to the Sethusamundram canal that will run across Ram's mythological bridge at the cost of fishermen's lifesaving catch, the fissure between what is good for `growth' (read `network') at the cost of `people' has been widening by the day. Yet, each of these projects and several upcoming ones being cleared by the `democratically' elected governments across the country (and even in other growing economies in the region) claim big gains for the poor. Despite the fact that doubts about benefits from such projects remain unanswered, bad policy making and insouciant politicians always pull such projects against all odds in India, purportedly to nurture the fledgling `network'.

Skim through the published reports and it would be hard to get a single credible report on the benefits of the Sethusamundram project, the project to dredge sand across the so-called Adam's Bridge in the Gulf of Manner region. Yet, there is unstinted support to the project from powers-that-be in Delhi and in Chennai. One wonders if the Union Shipping Minister and the Tamilnadu Chief Minister have access to information that most others don't or that they haven't read most of what is available in the public domain? It is either a case of hiding strategic information from the public or about making ill-informed decisions on someone's behest, a shameless breach of trust of the public by its elected representatives that may hold the livelihoods and the ecology in the region to ransom!

Politicians may play ignorant to published facts but do the babus (bureaucrats) help doctor such project reports to suit the vested interests? Whether or not they do so, the babus form an important link in the policy-planning process. The critical question is: are they better informed than their political masters? N C Saxena, a widely respected former senior bureaucrat and a member of the National Advisory Council constituted by the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, considers bureaucrats to be as poorly read, if not worse. According to Saxena, `one would find only three books in the house of an officer of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) - a railway time table because s/he is always on the move, a film magazine because that is the only book s/he reads, and of course, the civil list - that describes how many in the system are above him.'....more

Friday, September 21, 2007

1.TREND: Is stripping a new form of non-violent protest against oppression?

One could have easily let it pass but the frequency of such occurrences leave you wondering if a trend is beginning to take shape amidst the civilized society. While it is tough to ignore it, the image nevertheless gets itched in your memory. Many may have missed it and rightfully so but the sheer coincidence of similarity between two diametrically opposite events of recent occurrence rattled my mind to take a dig at it.

As skimpy clad models get paid to walk the ramp in Delhi, transport employees in Jammu stripped to their bare essentials for not being paid adequately. Hasn't shedding clothes become a familiar human expression, though people strip for cross purposes. From stripping on the streets of Rajkot (above) to walking with bare minimum at the Lakme show (below), the art of stripping holds distinct currency for its protagonists. It seemingly varies between `catching attention' to `catching the eye'!

While designers bring out their creative best to uncover female skin, stripping as a form of protest has something no less innovative either. It is not a matter of choice for the protesters but the inevitability of being forced to shed clothes. Interestingly, both forms of stripping hog the limelight. Not only do the pictures grab column inches, these take precious air time too, becoming essential part of the media archives to be replayed for scoring better TRP ratings.

Why it doesn't matter to either of the sexes to outsmart other in the art of stripping? They have descended from the same moral high ground anyway, the proverbial Garden of the Eden! The crucial question: is there a psychological switch or a biological trigger that forces people to strip? With some of the most conservative people in ordinary life resorting to such extreme step, one wonders if it is in response to being `driven to the wall'.

Psychiatrists may have to split hair to get down to the psychology of stripping. So, it may be for the sociologists. But biologists have some sense of it as they consider men `left-brained' and `logical' and women `right-brained' and `emotional'. What amazes is the fact that despite using different portions of the brain to arrive at crucial decisions, there is gross similarity in the end result - at least in the matter of stripping. What is seemingly logical for men may indeed be emotional correct for women!

One might argue if stripping in public is worth the analysis. People do resort to stripping to grab attention but it's sociology may provide some interesting insights. It's inherent value lies in it being a non-violent expression against atrocities and violence. The likes of Pamela Anderson strip to stop violence against animals. Hundreds of young Greenpeace strippers braved chilling winds to highlight the impact of global warming on shrinking glaciers.

Does stripping empower the protagonist? I'm beginning to think so, as stripping is used as a medium to convey the message. Be it on the ramp or in the streets, there is a method in the madness of stripping. While it may project creativity and glamour on one extreme, it does reflect courage and defiance on the other. The power of stripping was at show recently during a one-day cricket match in England when youngsters stripping to unveil a brand of bikini had cost India the match!

Without doubt, the female form grabs more attention than men on the streets! Men offer a pathetic display of unruly bodies and there is something eerie about their last piece of cloth too. It is no surprise therefore that an enterprising woman in the UK trains people on the art of stripping. What to wear, how to strip are essential elements of this new art form. It may not be too long before street stripping becomes a gainful engagement. Watch out!

FOLLOW UP

On March 26, 2008, 41-year old Atali villager Indravadan Patel, an employee of a firm in Karjan which had closed last year, stripped down to his underwear in the provident fund office at Akota in Gujarat to protest against the delay in payment of his provident fund dues of Rs 50,000. Patel's claim that a clerk asked for bribe and delayed the release of his fund made him to take the extreme but a peaceful step. The clerk was suspended and the officials promised to settle the matter at the earliest. Does life not imitate art? In Lage Raho Munnabhai, a bollywood film released in 2006, an old man's pension was held up by a clerk under similar circumstances. The hero advises the old man to go to the office and practice Gandhigiri by taking off his clothes and handing them over to the clerk. And the work gets done. The only surprise in the present case is that it worked in Gujarat.

Stripping can get you a lot! Did Madam Carla Bruni, the French First Lady, say this? Your guess is as good as mine!