May 2, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Summer has started early this year in this part of the world, and heat is oppressive. Here is another round of random reflections for your perusal;

  1. The vast parts of India are suffering from drought; there is no water in the tanks, dams and rivers. Poor monsoon for the past couple of years is only a small part of the reason. Lack of appropriate policies, systems and actions on the ground have been depleting water resources, as consumption (and wastage) far exceeds replenishment. We have become ‘water bankrupt’. A decade ago, rural employment guarantee scheme was launched to both provide employment and conserve, harvest and store water at household and village levels. More than 15 bn$ have been spent, and barely any significant impact on water?
  2. Senior officials, political leaders and academics are all now ‘addicted’ to mobile, its messaging and social media. Delegates in conferences and participants in official meetings are constantly checking and using their mobiles, instead of paying attention to the deliberations. In a recent conference in Jaipur, a renowned international speaker was introduced to the Vice Chancellor of one of the cooperating universities. While the international guest was speaking, the host VC was merrily carrying on reading his mobile. I thought we were a society that respects guests?
  3. India is a heavily populated country, and all its events, places and spaces are generally crowded. Therefore, planning for high density human presence should be a core competence in such a country. During a recent visit to a much-fancied IPL cricket match in Hyderabad, the entry to the beautiful stadium inside was dusty, confusing, muddy and chaotic. Other than a main gate for VVIPs, no mind had been applied for ease of entry by ordinary visitors. At the end of the game, as usual, chaos and push was made worse by motor-cycle riding policemen running back home from their duty, even before visitors had been evacuated. More stampedes in the making?
  4. Public and private investment in higher education is rapidly expanding in India. Many families are contributing to send their youth to college and university. Most of these young people even in smaller and distant locations like Raipur and Ambikapur in the state of Chhattisgarh have smart phones with mobile data. But the colleges and universities, especially those in the public sector, do not have wifi connectivity on their campus, conference rooms and lecture halls. Whither digital India?
  5. Japanese society is an ageing society. Its youth, however, are global in orientation, culture and technology. Nearly all of them are entering post-secondary educational institutions. Their aspirations are to be globally mobile, world citizens, not confined to Japanese culture and society. This is creating challenges for social relations as the elders largely remain rooted in local culture. There may well be some lessons for other societies as they experience such transitions today?


Rajesh Tandon