February 2, 2016

Dear Colleagues,
Here is another round of somewhat random reflections for your perusal:

1.The media coverage of ‘Saifai Festival’ spread over a fortnight seemed to indicate that lavish arrangements were made to celebrate in the hometown of the Chief Minister of UP. On the occasion of National Youth Day and Swami Vivekananda Birthday on January 12, 2016, the entire political and official leadership had shifted from Lucknow to Saifai to participate in the grand finale. Such luxury and ostentatious expenditure in a state whose people are struggling to survive is truly amazing in Indian democracy.

2.Zika virus is in news these days. Brasil and nearby countries appear to be its origin. Its spread to other locations is likely to be rapid and devastating. Zika is the latest in the series of such ‘unpredictable’ virus—remember ‘ebola’ in West Africa, ‘mad cow’ in parts of Europe, bird flu in East Asia….. Most such virus emerge on the interface of human and animal contacts, and breed in unhygienic conditions. Is prevention conceivable then?

3.Certain parts of India are witnessing growth in numbers of working young women in organised sectors of industry. Raipur’s hotel industry is one such example. Young girls in early 20s are working late night shifts as security guards, waiters, front desk managers in Raipur. They are bright, energetic and efficient. Most have come from many distant districts in the state. Congratulations to these young girls and their parents!

4.Several parts of rapidly expanding Delhi have acquired a somewhat ‘rurban’ character where village and city life become intertwined. Nazafgarh has become one such area in the past two decades. The youth growing up in such areas are trying to break the shackles of tradition to participate in urban modernity quickly. Some visible indicators are dress, mobile, use of English language and new food preferences (like pizza). But social customs continue to discriminate against girls, restricting their freedom and choice. That shift appears just around the corner, though.

5.A recent Bollywood film, ‘Airlift’, portrays the situation of Indian migrants in Kuwait in the immediate aftermath of Iraq’s invasion in August 1990. It brought back memories of that era, and rather painful experiences of many as the process of evacuation of stranded Indians was clumsy and slow. In contrast, the responses of Indian government, its embassies overseas and current political leadership to such cases of sudden outbreak of violence resulting in stranded Indians has been quick, efficient and caring. Governance in some ways is improving?

Rajesh Tandon