8

Increasing privatization of necessities means citizens are forced to make purchases from private entities that are opaque to scrutiny and unaccountable to people. It is a permanent profit.

Privatizing essentials for living is undemocratic, because private corporations are not chosen by the people and they are not accountable to the people. We are a democracy, though these days many thought leaders seem to see it as a handicap. Things defined as necessities and included in the human development index MUST have government provided options, even if private entities offer their own services too. Like phones, healthcare, PDS or buses. Some things – air, water, land and sunlight – must NEVER be turned into the hands of anyone not accountable to citizens. Our ancestors weren’t fools to worship them – they are the foundations of life itself. Better than saving the cows, the Nationalists should save these.

Shifting the burden of responsibility from accountable government to opaque, private entities

This may seem like a small matter, but it is not. This is the government forcing people to make purchases from private entities, and I don’t see how any government has the right to impose them on people in a democracy. If companies want to sell better water, let them create their own networks for whoever wants to buy it – and source it from anywhere except this country – make it from the sea for all I care. It is possible. It requires technology, but the fancy corporates have abundant and better tech, I hear. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Supposed experts argue that the government is inefficient and that is why we need private companies. This is pro-privatization bull shit. Indian Government organizations run some of the most amazing, intricate and huge infrastructures in the world. ISRO has some of the greatest space programmes in the world for a fraction of the budget of the NASA and definitely not proportionately less capacity. Our Army is one of the largest in the world. We are capable of achieving quality. Not to mention we have indigenously developed nuclear capacities. We aren’t stupid. It is strange how we excel in some services and are miraculously incompetent where corporate alternatives exist. Or perhaps, those with possible profits in privatization keep quality low to prepare the stage by saying, oh, the government can’t do better, we are not private.

Are corporations really more efficient?

India’s telephone network is one of the largest in the world. Public transport, water pipelines… We can reach to every citizen of the country for things like vaccination, census, elections. Show me the corporation that has capabilities of this scale. We privatized electricity in Mumbai, but show me the corporation that electrified the many villages that need it instead of taking over already profitable areas. That is still this “incapable” government’s job and tax payer’s expense.

Why are there corporate subsidies, bailouts and bankruptcies if corporates are more efficient? Of course necessities being privatized will not go kaput, because we’ll cover the losses no matter what for our own survival needs. Unless they do fail and then it will be a humanitarian disaster that the tax payer must bail out to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. In other words, corporates are able to sell “better” on the basis of advertised efficiency, and make the tax payer suffer the inefficiencies that later emerge. Which CEO or upper management doesn’t get paid when the company is going bankrupt? With essentials, the consumer is powerless with choice between several corporations with similar methods and prices.

We blame the government for not making profit while operating in areas of all kinds of lack of development and think corporates that only run in profitable environments and still can make losses are better? What crap logic is this?

Does privatization bring solutions?

If privatization is the solution to everything not working, then the previous year is proof that we must privatize the Parliament instead of merely letting puppets of corporations run it. Let’s do away with elections, stop calling us a democracy and simply go with the “better option”. Let’s privatize the police force. It is far more inefficient than water supply. Whoever thinks people need cops more than they need water is insane. We take water for granted, because we still have it. As in, you and I – witness the massive protests by those whose water gets threatened over dams being privatized, built, destroyed or water sources being polluted… but wait, you didn’t hear about them.

It is also funny how the “need” for privatization is visible only in the areas where massive infrastructures built at the tax payer’s expense are peddled away to a company that couldn’t have dreamed of creating them. A company that will then bill the same tax payers more for using their creation. Big profits are made – from the “big market” India is. As economy slows, sales drop, stocks drop. No such risk with essentials. You will sell your gold and your house and yourself before you live without water.

Is no one connecting the dots to this massive collusion between government and private players? Why is this happening? Because India is a "developing country" in spite of massive undevelopedness and has delusions of being a superpower. Unfortunately, GDP cannot be faked. The money hemorrhaging through scams, misgovernance, lousy policies and plain posturing needs to come from somewhere. So we are now doing what a drunkard does - selling belongings to pay for booze.

Is it really development to sell away what the government owns?

Like the broke farmers selling their land and borrowing from moneylenders, we are selling or leasing our assets to corporates to afford running the country. We are walking this path, because we didn’t take the farmer suicides seriously enough to UNDERSTAND what was happening. Like the farmer who can’t afford seeds and sells more and more of his life till nothing is left, we can’t afford our outgoing.

Payments over $100 billion coming up. We have a few reserves, but using them will make us less super power and be the stamp on the government’s lack of credibility with money. Time to sell something. The FDI in Retail flopped because massive outcry was raised. Some other FDIs still happened. India is assuring Wallmart that the FDI too is going to happen. Pranab Mukherjee is candid “I need the money“. Never mind that a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce report on FDI in Retail in May 2009 recommended against it. Now water privatization. A bomb proof market of citizen’s needs is sold for vast amounts of money, as guaranteed, stupendous profit.

Corporations are less corrupt is a popular perception – because they 1. legitimize many payments that come out of the customers pocket (compare salaries like CEOs, perks to top management, meeting and conference and such expenses, corporate branding, dress codes, running expenses… for example) and 2. they are not transparent, so you don’t know anyway. You can’t file an RTI to find out even if you suspect. But make no mistake, you pay for the glitter. It isn’t corruption if they tell you upfront. It is only unfortunate and these costs are unavoidable cost of running the operation and you want water from it and now you must pay your bill.

Who is responsible if the poor cannot afford life essential services from private operators?

I have no wish to dictate what corporates do with their operations with non-essentials, but I think in a country with massive poverty, necessities must be as lean and subsidized as possible without trying to “recover investments” at the cost of human rights. There are arguments about “welfare state” and such. I don’t know when the word welfare itself became a bad word, but I cannot understand why it is wrong to ensure a basic human need like water for all regardless of their ability to pay for it.

Is our country really saying that staying in the country is different from having water for living in it? What next? Air? Sunlight? Earth? With India being the most polluted country in the world and radiation increasingly recognized as unsafe, they are possible. Imagine piped breathing air for enclosed spaces from villages or other areas with trees and low pollution, portable air decontaminators with bluetooth pairing with your phone and computer. Radiation and other contamination free properties available for a price. Huge roofs over cities for solar power and you can pay to enter and spend some time in the sun… But only privatized after the tax payer first pays for creating the infrastructures. And then the rest of the people should live with the lousy contaminated state of their “services” or pay up. Our experts would talk about India’s prowess in taming the four elements of our ancient texts.

Why have development indexes by country at all? Privatize all needs, and ask UN to speak with service providers over people dying of hunger and thirst, who will simply say that they are not customers, and they are not answerable for those they don’t provide service to. We can always say that we cannot help epidemics, since we don't have a service to monitor them, and we don't have the service because no one wants to pay for a service that monitors epidemics where mostly poor die. So we at least don’t appear so bad.

Life essential needs are not merely products and services, they are what make life possible

The big, fatal mistake is in buying the government and corporate bullshit that basic needs are services. They are the backbone of a country. They are the resources of the nation entrusted to elected representatives to govern to the advantage and well-being of all. That is why you don’t have corporations who built millions of kilometers of water pipelines. They developed with the taxes paid by the average person to develop the country – over decades, a little at a time. In ANY country. Like building your own home, but as a country. For your whole family. You speak of national unity and staying together and such? This is it that we are kicking away and wondering why people are breaking free.

It isn’t about corporates offering better quality or not, it is about representatives of the people being directly in control of their basic needs. Quality can be improved. You can’t ask a corporate why it provides a certain service to a certain area more than others. You can’t ask a corporate why you don’t get water, but the theme water park in your locality does or make it pay or suffer. Elected representatives have to listen or they get voted out. They have to answer. You can’t ask a corporate just how much profit it is making out of selling water to the “domestic and agricultural sector” and how much of the water is throttled and diverted to other large corporations for their purposes. It is happening already, but now you can file an RTI at least.

In theory, you could regulate what a corporate offers, manage prices, force service to needy areas, even force RTI – which should be done anyway for publicly offered services… but then you would end up taking responsibility for consequences too – witness Kingfisher and its bankruptcy over being forced to service less popular destinations. Now imagine Kingfisher selling your water. Either the poor go thirsty, or bail us out. The corporate becomes beyond the reach of any result, because it has the people by their needs.

If corporations are more efficient, why do they take over what is already working well instead of developing new assets?

Why not ask corporations interested in working in the “water sector” to pick areas with water problems and no infrastructure and develop them and bill the people for a set period before handing control over to the country?

Why not hand over our poor, damaged, polluted, destroyed water bodies to corporates, let them clean up, sue industries that are wrecking them, and make them usable again in return for using them to sell water for some years? They have the resources to make it possible, unlike citizens who cannot and governments who will not. Why not ask for development in return for controlling development? Why can’t corporates be expected to participate in building the country like citizens?

Wouldn’t that be a more logical use of a “more efficient entity”? We have huge areas with drought and such. They could do with a “solution” that is more effective than the government. Water and sewerage of Mumbai is separate from BMC to be eventually privatized. What is the problem with Mumbai’s already excellent water that privatization will fix and the BMC cannot?

Apparently, it is only the government’s inefficiencies that corporates fix. Apparently these corporates that are better than the government cannot create from scratch. And stupid citizens believe this bullshit, because we have people dedicated to telling them over and over that the Emperor is wearing this miraculous robe that is visible to the intelligent. So they ignore draining wallets and pretend to be smart rather than be publicly known as fools or worse “low society people who can’t even afford so much”.

Because we don’t expect capitalism to have a soul. We only expect it to churn out cash. Cash it earns from the masses and delivers to those in power as the price of keeping even more for itself. It is a one way flow. Few citizens other than employees have any way of earning back from these entities. Then we have the amazing numbers of inequality that activists will quote and get criticized for. We admire progress. Increasing numbers. They manage to sink once in a while in spite of such odds when their customers are no longer able to pay more to sustain them.

But asking such questions will not work. I will get a bunch of trolls calling me socialist as if it were a curse – even though I have little knowledge of socialism and am simply questioning what I am seeing being promoted as a good idea – like everything else questioned on this blog, because the maths seems fake.

Make no mistake, the strategic “experts” hit bulls eye when they say the next wars will be fought over water – apparently they don’t coordinate their bullshit with the development experts, and this is not on their bullshit agenda. Both between countries, and inside countries – as water resources become scarce, people will kill and die for water. Our government here is giving corporations the tools for future genocides, or “anti-national elements” tools for the next French Revolution. Because NO ONE can live without water.

But the mainstream media will continue to tell us that they are anti-national people wanting “our” water as long as we pay the bills.

2

When Prashant Bhushan and Arundhati Roy were attacked by affiliates of BJP, there was news media in place and ready seemingly with prior information.

Prashant Bhushan was beaten in his Chambers yesterday in full view of TV Cameras. The attacker slapped and manhandled him before others in the room subdued him. The audacious attack shocked people awake even as claims of culpability by Tajinder Bagga of Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena trended on Facebook. First things first, here is the attack itself.

Almost immediately after the incident, questions started coming up asking why the crew did not help him instead of continuing filming. Then, more knowledgable people started questioning why the cameraman didn't panic at all with the attack. Remember how our media normally acts in crisis...

Today, The Hoot came up with an article that speculates that the media may have been aware of the upcoming attack. The article brings up several vital coincidences. To quote directly:

Its Editor, Arnab Goswami, is always polarising people and taking open editorial positions against human rights activists and authors like Arundhuti Roy. In fact there are lots of unanswered questions about the how-come and whys of the presence of Times Now crew in Prashant Bhushan's room when the attackers entered and started beating up the Supreme Court lawyer.
Had the Times Now team been forewarned by the Ram Sene group and had they quickly taken an appointment with Mr Prashanth Bhushan in order to ensure they were present ? Ram Sene and organisations like that are known to pre-warn the media (particularly TV channels) so they get all the coverage when they attack.

The article speaks of Arnab Goswami attacking activists verbally on his show. I remember watching his interview of Arvind Kejriwal and Shanti Bhushan during the Jan Lokpal movement where I actually ran word counts on the transcript and Arnab had spoken over 200 words more than both his guests put together. The intervew barely listened to anything they had to say.

Is it a coincidence that Prashant Bhushan is a member of the same team as these two - people Arnab has already attacked verbally in the name of interviewing, and a Times Now interview is happening while he is attacked? I don't know, but definitely needs to be investigated, in my opinion, if the crew was tipped about a possible attack and landed up to film it.

This reminded me of another incident which conveniently took place in the eye of the media. It was when Arundhati Roy's home was attacked by the Women Wing Mahila Morcha of the BJP on 31st October 2010.

In that article she describes OB vans from three Channels present before the attack in position to be able to cover the event live. Times Now was among the channels along with NDTV and News 24.

She also mentions an earlier attack in June by two men on motorcycles after a false report in PTI which was also accompanied by cameramen (coincidence? I doubt). The channel of this cameraman is unknown. I was not able to find the clip. If someone has access to it, please do share link.

The Hoot article lays it out:

Any veteran television person will tell you that the cameraman was prepared and not surprised one bit by the attack ! The fact that the Times Now managed to get a news coup by not only showing this footage exclusively, but later allowing all channels to use it  with a Times Now logo suggests that there was more to it then meets the eye.

This, to my mind brings up the question of where the lines blur between reporting and criminal culpability. It is something our media needs to think about. Already, our media has a reputation for covering only commercially viable news. At no time was this in starker contrast than the pathetic coverage of the floods in Assam, the isolation of Manipur, the Sikkim earthquake and the Orissa floods - all these incidents are from this year - from within the last few months and most Indians are barely aware of the dire straits of these places.

I have remarked in another article the need for these calamities to be covered adequately because lack of awareness results in lack of aid for those who need it desperately. It was the ultimate in irony that a prominent news channel was soliciting photos of floods in some areas of Delhi by its readers, when over 2 million people had been displaced and thousands of villages submerged in Orissa.

The Hoot article is a must read because of the many examples it brings up and the worrying pattern it points out with regards to ethics in coverage. One sentence that stays in my mind is:

Rogue media cannot be allowed to go unchecked as it tarnishes everyone in the business.

And I wonder if it is already too late to trust media to self monitor.

Update: Much after this post was published, an attack on a Mangalore Homestay by thugs from the Hindu Jagran Vedike led by Subhash Padil also took local media along, though in that case the journalist alerted the police and later provided statement about happenings in the assault.

Tajinder Bagga of the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena has officially joined the BJP and is currently known to be spreading disinformtation against the AAP in Varanasi and Delhi to support Modi's win in the Lok Sabha Elections.

Hindu Jagran Vedike was disowned by the BJP, but the head of the Woman's Commission for Karnataka, Manjula C of the BJP Mahila Morcha blamed the teenage victims for the brutal assault on them, as various other Sangh members defended the assault. HJV is known to be a sort of youth wing of the RSS and had represented them in kabaddi tournaments a couple of months before the attack, even as their leaders were denying any association.

17

While domestic abuse is distressingly common, it is equally normal for the victim to receive little or no assistance in dealing with an abusive partner or member of the family. Sadly, the "mind your own business" mentality continues to triumph against all logic. It does not seem to strike people that if marriage is not supposed to include abuse, abusive behavior between married people cannot be considered the "relationship". Absurd social assumptions of privacy continue to inadvertently strengthen abuse and stack odds against the victim and allow situations to escalate to levels where the only thing remains is for the chain to break at the weakest link - whether it is a person or a relationship.

But it need not be so. It is possible for socially committed people to influence situations so that abusive people cannot leverage their silence as a consensus against the victim. It is even possible without much risk or effort. What remains is to do it.

How can domestic abuse be prevented by bystanders?

A lot is possible. I'm listing out a few ideas that can be attempted according to the situation, how well you know the victim, and how strongly you feel about the matter.

Voice what is happening

You may not object, but make it clear that you notice what is happening. Abuse thrives in the shadows. For example, one person overruling or suppressing another in a group can easily be acknowledged with something as simple as "five of us want this, 3 want that, and XYZ seemed to want this till ABC stopped her.". In essence, you are doing nothing about the actions of the abuser other than stating them. However, an unfair action being stated reflects badly on the actor and discourages further similar actions out of a wish to not be seen as an unfair person. This is among the safest choices, as you are not required to know any backgrounds of actions beyond what you see, and if it isn't abuse, but has an alternative explanation, you do not end up making any accusations.

Make your disengagement clear

Abuse typically interprets silence of third parties to taste. Your lack of disagreement can be presented as your agreement with the abuser's view even if completely false. It is important to categorically make disagreement clear. While most people hesitate to make a scene, abuse going unchallenged gives it power because it creates the illusion of social sanction. You may not necessarily confront the abuser, but you can easily say something like "I see no harm why s/he shouldn't join us." By providing an alternative perspective, you break the image that "everyone" thinks like that. More so, you never know when others in the group also don't like but remain quiet, and it provides them with a graceful reminder to make their distance known too.

Make a stand

Make your stand clear. You don't have to support the victim, in fact, it is better that you don't in that moment. What you can do is make it clear that the abuser's behavior is unacceptable. "Please don't speak with your wife/husband/child like that in my presence". In this, it is important that you do not side with the victim who could be targeted in retaliation in your absence for things you said. Your confrontation should strictly be between the abuser and you, even if the subject is the victim. This may mean not involving information confided by the victim in particular - which may be seen by the abuser as an attack by the victim to influence you against them.

Use authority

Understand this. If you are in a position of authority and you don't challenge abuse, you are sanctioning it in the environment. It is absolutely reasonable to use your role and authority to set norms of behavior. "No hitting. No intimidation." "I have asked her for her opinion. If I wanted yours, I'd ask you." Straight, non-negotiable forbidding of inappropriate behavior when you have the authority to do so.

Offer support

Make it known to the victim that s/he can reach out for help. Cliched as it sounds, offer money if you can. Offer a safe home if you can. This cannot be stressed enough. Money and accommodation are the biggest reasons victims dare not leave abusive relationships. A stash of money comes in Handy for a quick taxi out when shit hits fan. Offer contacts. Discretely collect and share information on inexpensive accommodation if you offering is not possible or otherwise unsuitable. Offer it quietly and in an easy to remember/access manner. Repeat offer periodically, so that it remains in mind as a constant resource that can be trusted not to vanish. You may not be able to offer an option to get out of the abusive environment, but there may be other things that could help. Ask. Ask if there is anything.

Provide socialization

The biggest symptom of abuse is a person who withdraws, avoids social contact, feels awkward about answering questions about self and has poor self image. Having company helps. Helps provide a diversity of conversations rather than only abusive ones dominating the victim's interactions, which is how abusive situations narrow and create a perception of isolation and inferiority. Socialization also reduces opportunities of abuse as well as increases the threat of discovery and social disapproval.

Check up

Keen an eye, ask friends to occasionally check up on the person. If warranted, provide the victim a simple code that will mean she needs rescued. Something that is not blatant to others. DON'T take it lightly, ever. One of the things that helped me finally decide to risk moving out on my own with a disabled child in tow was something as seemingly unrelated as a day of internet outage resulting in phone calls asking if I was all right since I had vanished online.

Rescues

Unless you feel capable of taking charge of the victim's well being or offering a substantial part of the assistance needed in recovering, do not do solo rescues. Get police along. The rescue is the beginning. then comes the challenge - of rebuilding life. More difficult to get that assistance after being rescued. Much easier if the police are involved all through. A victim is also less likely to be intimidated into covering up in the presence of the police asking questions of the abuser.

Speak with social workers

They have options, ideas and assistance that could help the person much more effectively. They also have the manpower and diverse competencies to keep an eye, intervene or provide support as needed.

When to call cops rather than be sorry later?

You see unexplained injuries, acute depression to the point of aloofness, inexplicable changes of behaviour that are out of character for the person, hearing loud/angry voices or sounds of objects being thrown/banged/hit/etc, if you have a safety code that gets triggered... if you feel uneasy about the well being of someone in a known abusive situation.

Very likely that it will be a false alarm. Do it anyway. For one, you never know what you prevented by interrupting on time. For another, as someone outside the abuser's control with the power to call cops and get the abuser in serious trouble, you act as a shield. The abuser cannot prevent you from acting in any manner you wish, including reporting possible domestic abuse/crime. It becomes essential that any cops arriving find no trouble. It is as much a deterrent as a response.

If enough people do these simple things, society would be much safer.

52

This article takes off from the previous one exploring the natural rights of children that are abused casually. So here, I am looking at schools. Let me say upfront that I am not “designing an overhaul” and I don’t believe I should. Public services should always be designed by consensus, hopefully with some input or observation of children.

The following isn’t intended to be a working model of education, but a set of goals that should be incorporated into planning one, if at all we ever get around to making so much effort when kids are “perfectly fine” in their tidy boxes. I use this space to share ideas that occur to me. I hope many minds will join in in precious contribution.

  1. The duration. Cut it to a third. Currently, we have three to four years of pre-school, kindergarten, etc before school, plus the ten actual years of school. That’s too much. If you want kids ready for college at fifteen, put them in school by ten, get them out by fourteen and give them a year’s break before further organized study. This has the added bonus of tripling the national educational capacity instantly. More on this later.
  2. Get rid of compulsions. If the school thinks something is important, and the child doesn’t, its time to get real, and like real life, negotiate. And suck it up and accept that things don’t always go our way if the child still doesn’t agree. In other words, they are people.
  3. Memorizing must be so minimized, that if it can be noticed, its too much. Instead, teach kids how to find out. How to reference knowledge, how to rig up their own research, how to question the knowledge and test it before accepting or not. How to disagree, without inhibition.
  4. Banish syllabus and subjects. Have classrooms loosely defined by what is happening in them and let the children be free to use them or not.
  5. Get totally rid of this good and bad. If you have bad students, please remove them from school and let them join whatever they are good at – even if it is watching TV all day. They have one life and don’t deserve to suffer our hang ups.
  6. Knowledge must not be seggregated. A snowflake being beautiful, cold, inspiring poetry, geometrically interesting….. should not be unrelated. This cannot be designed. You will have to get rid of subjects and dive into whatever the kids seem interested in. Which brings me to….
  7. Teachers should be facilitators. Once we get rid of the idea of limited information, the idea of a teacher becomes impossible to provide. No one can know everything about everything. Thus, the teachers must have skills that get the knowledge flowing rather than delivering the final word on something.
  8. Drop the idea that kids did “nothing”. Nothing is what brainwashed adults do. A quiet kid has gears turning in his head, a mischiefmaker is figuring out out of the box ideas that no one thought of, so that he can do his mischief. There is absolutely no reason to plan every inch of the time and space a child spends in the learning center. On the other hand, there is every need to offer a variety of things around what is enjoyed or considered interesting.
  9. Which brings me to… don’t limit learning. If your classrooms are by subject, there is absolutely no reason why people can’t take life memberships and/or to multiple schools or walk into a government school at whim. If they don’t have to attend everyday, they can, you know? What more perfect thing on a boring afternoon than to discover something astonishing? To hop across and check out what’s “happening”? Or, to continue on to their specialized colleges, but feel free to supplement it with more holistic learning in the center? It would be great for the kids to have diversity in learning partners. More real, more practical. If something specific doesn’t support it, that can always be protected.
  10. You understand of course, that from tiny, regimented, stingy parcels of learning, I’m talking of throwing the world open to kids. Of helping them learn whatever they want, as far as possible. No compulsory subjects, no lectures, unless the teacher is gung ho about something and the kids find it interesting enough to not walk out.
  11. There is absolutely no reason why basic education can’t prepare one for a future in agriculture or hairdressing, if it truly offers freedom of learning. That is the whole idea of basic, you know? Education now is ridiculous. The foundation for never finding out their real passions, because they are supposed to do all kinds of things and anyway, its highly likely that what you want to do cannot be described as one out of eight subjects – and thus kids actually have no idea what to do after their board exams. If this nonsense were working, by the time they hit the age of college, children would have had a fair grip on what it was they wanted to do, instead of saying, “Oh, if I get good marks, I’ll take science, or commerce if i can’t do that, or arts if  I get no admission for either.” This horrible predicament of theirs is because they are taught fantasy subjects, which have no reality with what they can envison anyone actually doing. They haven’t actually done anything that gives them an idea of if they want to do it a lot in the future. And no, they never had an ambition for memorization, and if they did, it would be something more spectacular, not something everyone “had to” memorize.
  12. The so called “B.Ed” variety degrees should be replaced by more practical psychology experience and skills of resourcing things. Nothing currently teaches that, so it will have to be designed. The actual learning expertise can come from anything ranging from a bunch of kids taking things apart and finding out for themselves, or a nuclear physicist volunteering an afternoon. Or from the tomes of textbooks of a bygone era to the internet or whatever comes next.
  13. school like this ought to actually be LESS expensive. Resources are really vastly scalable – there is no need to standardize – whatever is available, its unique, and real, and likely influenced by what kids wanted. This money should be not saved, but used to add resources and pay teachers really well. Teachers who become teachers because they couldn’t get better jobs should not be trusted with shaping the future of very precious people.
  14. Exams should be banned at the “end” of schooling. There is no end to learning, and there is absolutely no realistic way of assessing learning. Attempts to do so should be considered an insult to learning itself.
  15. But…. but, how do we put people in college? ENTRANCE EXAMS. If a child WANTS to do something, it makes sense to train for it and pass an exam certifying it. Colleges already have entrance exams. What difference does it make to them if the kids didn’t do other exams before that? Skills considered essential can be tested, and that is that. Let’s stop these anal routines, as though assessments are the whole point of learning.
  16. For jobs, it makes more sense to have entrance exams based on the actual work expected. An accounts job shouldn’t need the same skill set and marksheet as a receptionist, for example, as is the current scenario. Someone interested in numbers can learn really cool things with them and become a far more exceptional accountant than a garden variety “some of everything”, so actually, it is a grounding for far more intense specialization.
  17. It has the added benefit of dignity of labour. If there isn’t an educational norm that you can study commerce and become an executive with 80% marks and a receptionist with 60% marks, there is no shame in choosing what your heart is comfortable with, or becoming a driver or a nuclear scientist. A child choosing to attend school a couple of days a week and focusing more on the garage on the corner because he’s interested in race cars is LEARNING. Will be good initial work for that mechanical engineering entrance exam. If this child is not condemned, he may want to use the learning center to be able to calculate the power of an engine better, or learn the correct spelling of some term the mechanic used. Such things should be seen as apprenticeships rather than wasting time.
  18. I am not saying organize nothing and let kids go wild and be complacent because you don’t have to show any results. There is a difference between nurture and neglect, just as there is between nurture and prison. . Something like this would be more difficult on the teachers, BECAUSE they are supposed to deliver more. The world, instead of ten chapters.
  19. Also not saying that no lectures should be organized. I am saying that they should have a purpose other than ramming an essay into a child’s brain. They should be free for anyone to learn from, not just one group of people doing it whether they want or not. A lecture designed for the sixth grade shouldn’t disallow anyone wanting to attend it, nor should it disallow a sixth grader from leaving, but there will have to be a target audience in designing it, of course.
  20. Obviously, this isn’t something that would work out of the box. For one, even if this idea were adopted, a transition would have to be worked out. This idea would have to be refined further. But that a basic education ought to be good enough to set many people up for basic jobs without having to do anything further exotic. A basic education ought to create a foundation for learning, which can be applied in any sphere of life, and a love for knowledge, which goes beyond proving worth in exams. It ought to give the children enough of a sampling of what happens in different kinds of work so that they have a fair idea of what they really want by the time they hit the age of eligibility for college. And no, you ambitious parents, this shouldn’t be an opportunity to lower the entrance age for college.

Ok, I’ll stop here, because again, the article must go on, but you get the idea. Measuring people, demeaning them, limiting their learning is not necessary at all.

~*~*~ Fun Break ~*~*~

A bubble of pure water without soap added – impossible on earth, because, in zero gravity, the film of water doesn’t collapse under its own weight. Syllabus? Everything from surface tension and gravity to forces shaping objects to the nature of a scientist’s mind or the beauty of bubble itself or how do they design the shuttle so that it doesn’t leak or collapse? A million learning conversation possibilities….. or…. we aren’t in space. Which brand of soap will make best bubbles? Or…. on earth, could zero gravity be “rigged” to make this possible? One interesting thing leads to a lot of thought. Thinking is going to get someone figuring out black holes or the latest laundry detergent patent.

~*~*~Ok, back to the topic~*~*~

This is a vision. An ideal. I share it, but there is little hope in me that the world we have has the guts to face raw learning. However, there are a few suggestions I have, that can be implemented, and MUST be implemented. If you have a child, or are a teacher ethically responsible for the harm of school, or are even more introspective and realize that we are responsible for the wrongs we allow to happen unchallenged, you MUST fight tooth and nail for these.

  1. Asking children to take complaint notes about them by their teachers to their parents should be declared a crime. High quality abuse. Enough humiliation already. Its the teacher being paid to make this teaching thing work, not the child. If s/he cannot handle the child, they have choices. Ideally, beginning with another job, but at the very least calling up the parent her/himself and not bullying a child into carrying demeaning words about themselves between people. Or even good words. A child is not a courier for gossip about itself.
  2. Design engaging and “cool” knowledge sharing. Encourage trying things out, based on the learning theme.
  3. Parent-Teacher meetings, staff meetings, etc must be totally open to whichever child wishes to observe them, possibly they can get permission to address the group if they have something important that they want to share. In any case, they must have the RIGHT to know what are the processes around them.
  4. Memorizing needs silence. Learning needs engagement. Engagement is frequently noisy. Noise must not be discouraged. In fact, I go ahead and say that if a teacher can get a class chattering excitedly, they are learning. Teachers MUST receive training on non-violent communication.
  5. Uniforms should be replaced by dress codes, which should be sufficiently tolerant of the intended age and context. There is no two ways around this. Just imagine this. The boss lining up all the women showing cleavage and telling them to “dress better”. Lawsuits would fly. What makes you think that a child is less bothered by being paraded for having untidy clothes? Trust me, just get rid of this shit. If they join the Army, they’ll figure it out fast enough. If they end up working in a place with such rules, they will be doing it out of choice and for a reason. Don’t just randomly fuck with their dignity like this.

I am, like the earlier article, leaving out the “obvious and accepted wrongs”. Use your brain. If I’m holding things up with such integrity, it goes without saying that children being punished and beaten and so on is out. Just out, unless the teacher is cool with being caned in front of the class for being such an insensitive ass. That’s it.

Note: Rather abrupt, but I don’t have it in me to polish anything. Too heartfelt. Maybe later, so you may want to return to this article in the future, which is  a good idea for any article of mine you like, because I have zero publishing ethics. I change them, update them, and in general keep making them better if something occurs to me. I will also do the italic/bold thing, so that quick scanners get all the importantest words at least. Later. Now, I must stay with this feeling of talked out. When I wrote A new look at child abuse, I had planned it as a two article thing. The second article to contain a vision and possibilities. After the article finally wrote itself, and I read it a few times, I realized that it was too long. And it still didn’t allow me the space I needed without risking people running away just at the length of the page. After all, an idea unspread is a tree that fell unseen, unheard. So this thing is snowballing. The three sections will have their own follow ups of alternatives. And if at all anything remains left in me to write, I’ll see. But I’m not leaving go of this subject.


46

Child rights are our future.

The most vulnerable, exploited and unrepresented minority ANYWHERE in the world is children.

Child abuse is a process of disrespect, hurt and neglect and most children are abused. I'll go right ahead and say almost every child is abused at some point or the other.

This post looks beyond the "bona fide" abuse that is recognized socially and legally and looks at practices we consider acceptable, which are not in the best interest of children.

Macro - Legal/Social

  1. There are laws against child abuse in India, indeed, there are laws against child abuse in most parts of the world. The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child (in theory) offers several protections. So how many parents get arrested for abuse in India except in extreme cases of child abuse when children land up in hospitals or morgues?
  2. If you hit an adult, you'd be arrested for assault. If you hit a child, the child will be told to behave or listen to you.
  3. No laws for protecting children consult children. In India, I am not even sure they consult child psychologists.
  4. What does a policeman do when he sees a beggar boy or girl on the street? Or a child prostitute in a red light area? Child abuse is routinely tolerated. Children don't vote. Children don't know they can complain. Children don't come out on the streets threatening to topple governments or demanding suspensions of people.
  5. Blackmail is legal if its children? Children are rather literal creatures with high imaginations. "Do this or else", "keep quiet or I am not going to talk to you"... is a real threat for them. We think nothing of threats of abandonment or harm in order to force them to act how we want - often for trivial things.
  6. Harassing a child is a socializing routine. Taking away toys, laying claims on parents or other treasured possessions, ragging them to perform something...
  7. Lack of supporting services. How can children be removed to safety unless there is proper infrastructure to care for them - psychologically, day-to-day care or legally? There is a deafening silence on the utter lack of security (or intent to create it) for the largest minority - the children.
  8. There is no preventative action. We have cops investigating post crime.
  9. The RTE Act makes it mandatory for every child to be in school. ANY other minority treated so arbitrarily would have human rights activists up in arms. But they applaud initiatives to imprison children. But its not working. <== READ

Schools

  1. You might want to remember when any genius ever said, oh, I'm a genius because school taught me all the important things. That's right, never. Its usually, mom, supportive family, special mentor, country, god, etc.A school is a facility to install softwares of a list of subjects on unformatted children and certify the output, so that they may be put to appropriate use on becoming adults. In other words, kids are glorified hard drives. I am being cruel, unnecessarily vicious? Read on...
  2. Schools kill learning. Destroy ability to learn. Learning is a process of differentiation. This is red, this is blue. It is the discovery of the difference that I learn. A math problem can be figured out usefully by doing this and not this. Clearly, the process of being wrong is as important as the process of being right. If you cannot be wrong, you have validated nothing. You have only recorded what was told.
  3. If you don't memorize railway timetables, there is absolutely no reason to memorize biological species or latitude and longitude coordinates of a city. Schools are a criminal waste of the most learningful years of a child's life.
  4. Think of the brain as a computer's RAM. It caches information, but its information it needs handy for instant application. Cluttering the cache limits its utility. We get children to memorize tomes and tomes of history, scientific classifications, geographical information, mathematical methods, and what not. Like any good cache, it flushes after the exams, or at worst, after education is complete. A school creates a fake need for storing information. This whole three ring circus is worthless beyond school.
  5. What about English? A child can learn to read and write entirely from its interests. Video game rules, titles of cartoon films, story books, etc give way to chatting with girlfriends, reading up experiments.... whatever. If they have an interest that needs reading, they will figure it out. If they don't need it, there is no need, is there? If you write like Wren and Martin, you need to search for jobs in nineteenth century England. This is the language of the world. You find it on blogs, newspapers, instruction manuals, application forms and appointment letters.
  6. Language is about communication. And knowledge is about function. My excellent English grew through reading story books. I was absolutely addicted to story books. I used to hide them inside text books and read them in class. Lost count of how many got confiscated. I dare say I made a significant contribution to the school's library. I used to read story books while waiting for exams to start. If I didn't waste time on school, my English would have been even better.
  7. What about Maths? Prof Lockhart does a fantastic job of demolishing the myth of maths as taught in schools, and Joyce finishes the job for anyone who thinks a genius has different standards and they are more ordinary. Do read both. BTW, a calculator is cheaper than school fees. Here's one by Ben Goldacre on the scientific ethics of schools and adults - Kids who spot bullshit, and the adults who get upset about it
  8. Now for the uncomfortable parts. School does kids harm. It has done you harm. It has done society harm. It has done me harm. The reason is that schools measure the worth of people. They respect or insult based on measures they decide and do damage, because they teach that human beings are less worthy if they don't know something. They fail to comprehend or instill respect for the vast scope of genius existing in the world. They install inferiority complexes, superiority complexes, and an inability to recognize genuine knowledge growing wild. It diminishes people.
  9. Schools create artificial perceptions of narrow, age defined social comfort zones. People who hear this for the first time think I'm being unreasonable. They think kids prefer other children their own age. If this were true, pre-school kids wouldn't be tagging behind elder siblings in hero worship. It is an instinct to look at experienced members and learn. It is unnatural to avoid diversity. Pay attention - I am not saying relationships of same age are unnatural, I am saying it is unnatural not to venture outside those ages. Our society is fragmenting, as generations are unable to relate easily with each other. The few families with healthy relationships make it. The rest is a saga of all the generations finding the other generations inconvenient at best and intolerable more often.
  10. Schools create a culture of isolation. That would seem surprising considering how there are so many children, and you remember having friends.... but you can socialize and be alone without the ability to form meaningful relationships. Schools police interpersonal relations to an astonishingly harmful degree. It is natural for two people with a common problem to join forces in solving it. In real life, we call it team working. In school, the challenges are called examinations, and collaboration is called cheating. There is shame, stigma and a strong emphasis on NOT giving or accepting assistance and solving problems on your own. Then, you go to work, and suddenly the school ideas are the ones creating most of your trouble. You can't ask for help, you can't accept help, because you are "worth less" if you do that.You agree to teamwork, but still communicate final versions. Silo culture. There are now increasing cases of depression, suicides and loneliness in children.
  11. Schools are a market. A big, profitable market, where the consumers have no rights.
  12. The education system is INEFFICIENT. In a world where efficiency and speed are important, the size of education only increases, becomes more and more schizophrenic and irrelevant to reality. Increasingly, the products of this education system are worthless in real life. <== READ! They find it difficult to see opportunity in a city like Mumbai (<== READ!), where my maid earns Rs.12,000/- a month. Basically, our education system is still geared to produce clerks in the British Raj.
  13. Schools teach very few of the life important skills, and little that is useful for non-white collar jobs. A train driver earns a good income, but kids are not exposed to it as an opportunity. They are herded toward academic brilliance as though it were an Olympic sport and functionality were not important.
  14. I don't even want to talk about all the class stereotypes this creates. Intelligent, respectworthy people score well in exams.This has been disproved so many times, its irrational. But what do you expect in a country where people become teachers because they couldn't get better jobs?
  15. The education doesn't create a foundation going beyond the known or fighting the horizon and breaking through. The idea is to do what is already established, excellently. A child is innovative by nature. A doer, experimenter, natural scientist. It is a creative lobotomy to force them to become like this.

Which brings me to.... brace yourself. This is important. You love your child. You can do this. You can read through the rest.

Parents and other elders

  1. Most parents have a melodramatic awareness of how much they do for their kids, the sacrifices they make, the difficulties they suffer, etc. Their transactions with children are often through this lens, trivializing a child's sacrifices (is it sacrifice or compliance if its ordered?) in comparison with theirs. The child never asked to be born, or for sacrifices to be made. It is unfair to pressure them to appreciate something they didn't feel the need for, and deprive them of something they DO feel the need for.
  2. School is another form of abandonment of unwanted kids. Before you throw those rotten eggs at me, look in your rotten soul. Do you breathe a sigh of relief when vacations are over? Why are you happy to send your child off on more and more things to keep him busy and out of your hair? You won't watch a three hour film without finding out if its worth it, do you spare a second thought tying up more than a decade of the best parts of the days of your child's life? Do you stop to ask if that much time is needed? Do you stop to ask if it is necessary to teach all this? Do you exert your rights as your child's representative to negotiate his best interest? If not, who will? Isn't this abandonment?
  3. The abandonment is also emotional. Most parents will believe another adult over their child. So, if someone says something, complains, it is two adults versus one child. In other words, the equivalent of bullying. This is beyond abandonment, it is treachery.
  4. Almost every child has been hit, dominated or insulted for being inconvenient.
  5. Disrespect. Parents routinely "train" kids better. You wouldn't force feed a friend to eat a food she didn't like, but most parents think nothing about using anything from pleas to physical domination, threats and starvation in order to get kids to eat that food they don't want to eat. This isn't discipline. It is breaking someone's spirit by assault. Even in prisons, this would be human rights abuse. In homes, its normal. It is apparently what grows good, healthy kids. God forbid they became adult without learning how to eat tomatoes.
  6. Projections. Kids routinely pay for the parent's seeing bad things in them for no fault of theirsHere's a rather long winded article that goes into the psychology of it <== READ! If you are a parent, do your child a favour, and read it. If you do nothing, do this.

Too much hassle growing a kid. People plug them into schools to outsource their development. Take out a template installed with standard knowledge. Keep them busy till they are old enough not to be a hassle.

Nothing will convince me that at an age of discovery and wonder, a child is enjoys or gains best from sitting at a desk mimicing ideas and words.

Horse breeders realize the value of the emotional stability from being around the parent. To breed horses of good temperament, foals are not separated from dams till a year at least. Ideally, three or so years, till they become independent and form their own bonds in the herd. The equivalent in development for a year for a horse would be six human years. Animals get better caring, huh? What is more important than the emotional grounding and security of being with the parent till ready to explore further?

Making them independent, of course. In a world where adults misjudge people and are hurt and betrayed as a matter of routine, we expect children to "read" strangers at very young ages, and socialize easily and also have the ability to not go to strangers for fear of kidnappings, abuse and miscellaneous harm. We put them in danger through this kind of irresponsible passing on of responsibility.

You have parents looking to make babies independent... get them weaned, comfortable with strangers, accustomed to day care..... and then, you have same parents nagging their adult kids to visit more often. You abscond when they need you, and then you expect them to need you when they don't?

Very few happenings in a child's routine are intended with their joy, well being, emotional or physical safety in mind. Either we must stop claiming to love them, or we must change.

When we are old, drooling and bedridden, we'd like to matter when our care is outsourced to an old age home. We may learn to accept that we are inconvenient or that someone else could take better care of us, but we would like our loved ones to be close in our vulnerability. Not all that different from a child. Lined up in our futures. Good incentive to make this thing more human.

A start would be not doing, being, being acting with a child in any way that you wouldn't with someone you respect. Someone incredibly precious whom you appreciate.

Right now onwards.

If you liked this, you might be interested in its follow up School Reloaded, which looks at ways a learning institution could be.

9

The transgendered community is a world of its own, intersecting with the "normal" in a garish parody of revulsion and macabre fascination that leaves no room for them to be anything other than objects to project society's prejudices on.

Who in India hasn't encountered these clapping, lewd "female" looking presumably males? Indian hijras are a right menace in most public areas, traffic signals, parks, even homes, if they catch wind of celebrations happening. What is this scene really? Who are these people?

Obviously, they are men, dressed as women, but what is behind that obvious first experience?

Eunuchs have traditionally been guardians of harems, in the times of kings, as I recall from some ancient books. So they seem to have existed for a long time. Many people believe blessings and curses from castrated hijras to be particularly potent, so that gives them a chance to make a living out on the streets in a glorified form of begging, peddling their good wishes and threatening with curses to get money from people passing. Others get together as a group with musical instruments and fancy clothes and perform song and dance routines at weddings and other auspicious occasions and earn slightly better. Still others work as prostitutes.

Until I had the fortune to meet some really interesting people among them, I really hadn't spared them a thought beyond fury if they tried to get pushy with me. Then I met Geeta, and recently, Anjali and Sunita. I came to know the people behind these threatening personalities. They work toward bringing reform in the lives of the transgender community, as they like to refer to themselves with respect.

I learned about the difficulties their lives are faced with all the time. Particularly touching was once, when Noorie said that when in a rickshaw with a girl she preferred to be dropped home first, as if she got molested, no one would come to her help, and even the cops might molest her for complaining.

Another was when Sowmya spoke of the love she has for her sister and family that she is unable to express and be close with them, because society drives prejudices in the way. Aarti remembers being harassed even as a child, for being "delicate". Stories pour out of shattered hearts when they find someone who cares. As though the telling and being heard itself allows them to be human in that moment. Horrifying tales of abuse, exploitation, betrayal, abandonment... are the norm. I have yet to meet one who wasn't traumatized. Who bore the weight of being herself like an extra limb inserting itself between her and the world.

This seems to be a common factor. Some times in their teenage years, they discovered that they weren't really interested in girls as much as in boys, and identified with women better than with men. Acting on these impulses, and even becoming aware of them, intensified them, and they soon started seeming obviously "different". Soon, there remained little choice but to leave their homes and join trans-gender communities and be among people like them, because others rarely would accept them.

In rare cases, their genitals are not "properly male" and in others, pursuing a profession like prostitution makes them undesirable. They are then castrated in some "home treatment" fashion, rarely in a hygienic manner, or with the benefit of anesthetic. The idea is to look as female as they can. Not all hijaras are castrated, though many are. This also creates other hormonal imbalances that they need medical help with. Few doctors are willing to entertain them.

Transgenders face a whole load of problems in their lives - from practical respect and acceptance problems, to finding accommodation and occupations beyond begging and prostitution. In a world where forms give you options of male and female, they have no box to tick. Ration cards and passports are problems. Claiming justice is a problem. Self-esteem and assertiveness is a problem for all their loud body language. Health care and AIDS is a huge problem. The bottom line is money and survival.

A touching look at the legal, social and religious aspects of being a hijra can be cound in this article

If we want less of "these hijras" harrassing us on the streets, we also need to be willing to be ok with them in other areas when they are working honestly. Who cares if a web designer is male or female or transgender? Or someone working in an office, or a reception person, or a tailor? It is silly inhibitions and a fear of the unknown that keeps us from even sparing them a second glance. We keep our distance with our contempt and hide our fear behind our aloof masks.

Some interesting means of employment and income are slowly creeping into public consciousness. Films employ transgenders to do their usual lewd routines, which earns them decent money, but is hated by many as an insensitive showcase of their plight, and reinforcing their image in the mainstream society as not particularly appealing individuals. Using their song and dance routines to collect over due taxes from defaulters follows the same lines, but firmly projects them as people working on the side of "the good" and seems to be getting interesting results as seen here.

Still, it is occupation rooted in the revulsion society feels for them. Most people pay to be rid of them. The insult is soul searing. For the sole crime of being different. Depression and addictions as escape are common. As are clients who may love them for years but never walk down a street with them, let alone marry.

What we all are - humans is wrapped in so many layers of prejudice and bigotry that there is no awareness of them as people with lives and feelings. There is a need to see them for who they are, to employ and engage them for their skills and qualities rather than perversion. Perhaps, once we are able to see them as constructive workers, we might be able to offer them work beyond embarrassing people into paying money.

Luckily, there are organizations working with them. Some have even been started by educated transgender professionals to reach out to others like them. I suggest that we as people make that special effort not to cringe and turn away, but to deal with them as normally as we can, and see if we really like or dislike them, like we do with any other person. Not all of them are charming, and not all of them are bad. Can we look at the people more than their appearances?

*names changed to respect privacy

Edit: As routine maintenance of this site, I sometimes check to see what people are searching for, when they land up here. Many visitors from Europe land up here searching for conditions of this community, or information on what they are. The most popular search from India is "photo boy castrated India". I find it sad that the leading interest in them is still morbid sexual curiosity. Very few searches from India actually have words that are asking about the people very few Indians really know. It is a long and uphill struggle.