Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Disaster Recovery: Responsibility of Neighbor

It is much easier during emergencies for many Good Samaritans to pop up from nowhere and support the people in distress, and often these Good Samaritans are some good neighbors. As the time passes and the recovery and reconstruction begins, I have noted some strange human behavior taking over the genuine humaneness of persons, a behavior that goes beyond the ethereal. I have heard of persons who have allowed their land to be used freely, in spite of their own land or person loss in the family, so that other families who have lost their land may have a place in which they can set up a temporary tent as long as the "refugee's" house comes up. This is one of the most sublime of all. But the other side is also true. When the person who has lost his house, now has got compensation from the government and some money to build the house needs land for constructing a house looks for land, even the cost of bad land (risky and vulnerable land) price has gone up. A friend was telling me on Monday, in some villages the cost of land has gone up so much so that people cannot afford to buy the land, or if they buy the land, they cannot build the house!

So, there is demand for more money by way of compensation or support! Where will this circle end? In most disaster places I have noticed that the price of land going down, and it is true that the price goes up during reconstruction, usually due to the additional money coming in by way of wages and new employment opportunity created. But, price of land going up through the roof....a plot costing 400,000 rupees on a barren hill, which would require land and soil treatment besides any construction can take place.... Well, that is legalized robbery of different kind. Unless human tendency to support, serve and love remain, the vulnerable will continue to look for the most vulnerable locations to live with vulnerabilities and risks.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Disadvantages of the Underdogs & Few Successful Political Underdogs of India

In spite of reading Malcolm Gladwell's several books, some of them - several times, still one question remains in my mind. Why don't all underdogs outgrow to take on the Goliaths? What limits their advantages that they continue to suffer, can't think out of the box, and do not use unconventional methods to take on the powerful? Why don't they grab the opportunity as often as the advantaged do?

These questions kept pricking me as I was lying with bad cold, cough and fever in the second week of January. Is the the culture and social conditions that limit them? They probably do, and often possible. Social upbringing, cultural legacies borne and the weight of conditioned social controls can have long standing impact on persons who have often lived a subdued life of an underdog. But, such conditions also have had the opposite results! It is in such conditions often rebels thrive on, thinking totally out of the world comes up. Do economic situations have an impact limiting the free thinking of the supposedly misfits in society? It is possible that, even a great thinking may not have the relevant opportunity for want of economic security to overcome the hurdles. So, what we have is a mixture of Opportunity, Ability to utilize the opportunity, Environment that facilitates the ambiance to generate new ideas or use such opportunities. These three things Ability, Opportunity and Environment - even if one of them misses out, underdogs remain underdogs, or may even be pushed to the level of a street dog.

Let us look at the much talked about how the Aam Aadmi Party moved so quickly to pick the power in Delhi. The environment was ripe with rampant corruption and angry people around; Opportunity comes in the form of the RTI act that throws up many skeletons and the fast by Anna Hazare who calls for Jan Lokpal (Anti-corruption agency); and the Ability comes in the form of uniting the angry folks, giving a vision through a TRP hungry media, showcase participatory approach as a new medium of decision making, and break away from the shadow of Anna Hazare into a political movement. If we look at the case of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, she too was equally the same. When she broke away from the Congress, she was certainly an underdog, struggling to generate support for her fledgling party. The snubbing came after she joined hands with BJP. Learning the lesson she fought single minded nearly for a decade: rights of the farmers, poor, women (Maa, Maati, Manush). And slowly she gathered momentum. The opportunity came in the form of Singur and Nandigram. She grabbed on that. The environment was ripe : the stronghold of CPM was breaking with more and more of independent electronic media coming in the late 1990s and from 2000 - 2005, which needed more and more to show, the CPM party's hold on its comrades was slowly loosening as Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who is a very eminent and extremely good man, was putting people's free thinking and growth ahead of party, which led to increasing gap between the party and government. And finally, we cannot forget her ability to hold an army of men and women together, take the battle to the Lion's den without fear. 

In the South, the Dravidian movement is one of the most successful very early successes of similar kind, that was built on Anti-Brahminical and anti-Hindi agitations, that brought the Dravidian parties to rule in the state of Tamilnadu, and for the last 50 years, no other national party could set their foot, even after the original Dravidian party, the DMK, an off shoot of the atheistic Dravida Kazhagam has broken several times. Some underdogs have  the capacity to grow into mammoths.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The 400th Post, Some Maps and Books

This is the 400th Post in my blog, and the first in 2014. I did not expect 2013 to be such a dull year in terms of the number of postings. And the way it started and with so many activities happening around, I had wished that 2013 would have one of the highest number of posts. But, on the other hand, I got so engrossed with so many good things, bad things and works that are intended to bring relief and solace to millions, that I had no time to sit and write the blog itself. The reason is the engagement in other social media. In spite of the little time only that I spend on the social media, because they give a sense of having got in touch with friends and colleagues at the end of the day, one begins to feel that...Well, I wanted to say, I have already said it in my Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Google+. When you have so many options, and that you can post it in Google+ or in LinkedIn and remain connected to others via the tabs or the smartphone, why should one need to sit down to write a blog of this kind?

In the last few days, I spent a bit of time with remote support from the staff of Center for Knowledge and Skills in preparing two sets of maps. The first was a simpler one : updating the mangrove forest plantation of Tagore Society for Rural Development (TSRD) in the Sunderbans. After the last mapping of areas in April 2013, TSRD had undertaken forest plantation in areas that had not been covered. 128 acres have been covered in the period from April to Nov 2013. Thank you TSRD for giving the opportunity once again to CKS for doing the mapping. The other mapping for which I took the help of CKS was using a lot of data and information available about Uttarakhand, and make the maps and information speak upfront. A few of these maps are available in 

I also took the opportunity to read a few books late at nights. Some of the good ones that I got hold of are from Malcolm Gladwell....and enjoying reading them, starting from "Outliers", "Thinking without Thinking"....etc.