July 1, 2015

Dear Colleagues

I am returning to once again, for your perusal below:

  1. This is the monsoon season in India. Like every year, flooding and chaos happened in big cities and small towns. Met Departments have been predicting, somewhat uncertainly, the onset and scale of monsoon, like all previous years. Deficit rainfall in certain parts of the country creates fears of food shortage as bulk of Indian agriculture depends on rains. Floods in some other parts, like Gujarat, cause havoc and misery. So, what has changed? The pattern, timing and period of monsoon has changed significantly. Due to climate change, rains arrive some 3-4 weeks later than the traditional lunar calendar had made us believe. So, adjust the calendar to new normal of seasons!
  2. Many governments want to control every aspect of the life of its citizens. Ofcourse, they know that they cannot do so easily in today’s tech-savvy world. But try they must. Indian government now wants to control contents, pedagogy and duration of all post-secondary courses. It wants to create a single governing board for all Institutes of Management. It also wants to prescribe the size of toilets, flags, plates…anything and everything that citizens use in everyday life. Lately, it is trying to make it mandatory for NGOs to provide information about each financial transaction. The government also knows that it has no capacity to succeed in any of these control efforts. Full control with weak capacity is invitation to corruption and chaos!
  3. New Zealand is one of the most peaceful, beautiful and naturally ecological countries in the world today. It is home to Pacific Islanders and Maori indigenous communities for centuries. Many of its national symbols (like Haka during Rugby match) are drawn from its Maori culture. Yet, there is something amiss in its current socio-economic development model. While Maori population is about 15% of the national, more than half (52%) of all male inmates in jails are Maori. What is the disconnect between traditional Maori wisdom and contemporary development ….?
  4. Local histories of cities and districts bring many interesting revelations about local foods and products in use in everyday life. Many Indian cities and districts are known for specialist high quality foods and cultural practices. Odisha’s milk sweet ‘chenapoda’ is one such example. Localities also specialise in producing certain talented people—artists, sports-persons, mathematicians, etc. In Odisha, Sambalpur district is known for producing talented hockey players; likewise, Ganjam district continues to produce very talented weight-lifters. What is in the soil, air or ethos of these localities to continue to generate such rich cultural practices and traditions? Can these be ‘smartly’ re-packaged for times ahead?
  5. While pockets in the state of Chhattisgarh continue to be facing violence by Maoist groups, the people of the state are generally relaxed and cool. Of late, however, forces of urbanisation and modernisation, as concomitant part of economic development, have begun to bring in certain aberrations. Families receiving large sums as compensation for land are wasting it in luxurious consumption; farmers from Punjab and Gujarat are buying off large tracts of fertile agricultural land for modern agriculture; consumption of liquor has increased dramatically; incidents of sexual violence against women have gone up; traffic snarls and street fights are occurring regularly. It seems that modern development process inevitably brings with it all such distortions?

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon