Thursday, August 26, 2010


I feel like sharing the TOI report that brought smile this morning even in a sense of grief (pls. refer to the previous post "Life owes"). I leave it you how you interpret this story. To me a student always remains a student irrespective of age, position etc. and there is this fear of exam., a irrepressible urge to 'cheat' when preparation is lacking...and some of them are habitual, even if the prep. is good, solution obtained, a confirmation from fellow student gives a sense of relief. Cheating in exam. is a subject by itself ... and there are so many varieties of them most of which do not get noticed, ignored by invigilator (he may be remembering his own student days or doe not care) or got away with by a stare, gentle nudge, different degrees of threat (none of which reaches ignition point). However, this is not even a borderline case ... and gross bad luck that the law caught up with the ones who are custodian of the same.
Five judges caught copying,suspended


Hyderabad: Five judges belonging to the state subordinate judiciary were suspended by the Andhra Pradesh high court on Wednesday for allegedly copying while writing their LLM exams at the Arts College of Kakatiya University in Warangal on Tuesday.
One of the judges was found copying from a law book hidden under his answer sheet.Written slips and pages torn from textbooks were seized from other judges.The copying material was confiscated by university invigilators who stopped the judges from writing any further.
The judges were doing LLM under distance mode from Kakatiya University as the degree would help them gain some increments in their career.
Those placed under suspension include K Ajitsimha Rao,senior civil judge,Ranga Reddy district,M Kistappa,principal senior civil judge,Anantapur,P Vijayendar Reddy,second additional district judge,Ranga Reddy district,M Srinivasachary,senior civil judge in Bapatla of Guntur district and Hanumantha Rao,additional junior civil judge in Warangal.
According to N Manohar,the universitys additional controller of examinations,the candidates were taking their exams in Room No 102 when a team headed by him made a surprise visit.
The judges were caught on camera copying from books,smuggled notes,and each other.Upon receipt of this information,the HC suspended them from service pending an inquiry.
The Warangal Bar Association said the whole episode was a blot on the judiciary.The judiciary is the final recourse for the people to get justice,and if the judges indulge in this kind of malpractice,how can you trust the judgment of the courts asked Ravi Kumar of the association.

Life owes

... to them as much as it owes to us. Are they less mortal because they are born in a poor family or orphaned at a tender age? When shall we be able to call ourselves civilized?
From today's (27/8/2010) TOI:

Boiling water poured on 14-yr-old maid

Falguni Banerjee | TNN

Pandua (Hooghly): This tale of horror would drown all the governments tall talk about uplifting the girl child.A 14-year-old orphan girl had boiling water poured on her neck and back by her employer in Chapahati village in Hooghlys Pandua on Thursday.
Doctors fear Putul Khatun may have to live all her life with the horrible burn wounds and scars.
Police first arrested Putuls employer,Rehnaz Bibi,a homoeopath.Later,they arrested Mahila Bibi,who brought up Putul after her parents died but forced her to work from the tender age of 10 and even allegedly instigated Rehnaz to exploit her.

A 24/8/2010 report
"Thirteen-year-old Bikash Ram wanted to go home for Rakhi festival in Bihar, but owner Babu Chandra Chowrasia, objected and refused to give salary and grant the leave.

As the boy insisted on the leave to go home on Rakhi Purnima, as he did every year to celebrate the occasion with his sister, Chowrasia allegedly beat him black and blue in rage and left the boy alone inside the shop whole night.

When the shop, located near 56 bus stand in Howrah, was opened, local people found the boy was frothing at the mouth. They shifted him to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries this afternoon, police added.

Police lodged an unnatural death case and arrested the owner under murder charge."
Indiabloom, The Telegraph, ToI today's edition

Each of us counts. Can we spare 1-2 hours per week and try to understand issues in our own neighbourhood? There are Govt. and Non-Govt. agencies, different schemes. Even if they are not accessible, cannot few of us form a team and try to reach out and do whatever little or big we can do? There may be lot of philosophy behind who takes birth where. To me it is just a chance. A child has no choice to select his parents or family, poor or rich. It could have been me, you and anybody in his/her place with that sense of helplessness. Let us give people their due. Let us try to work for that with whatever capacity we have. Let us devote at least our extra time and energy for that. We are solving many a problems in an efficient way. There is no better problem than this one.

Friday, August 20, 2010


"Can we have a quick meeting this afternoon? There is something important to discuss." I was talking to two Group Leaders of NSS, IIT Kharagpur. It was lunch break time. One of them was available on google chat. The other got connected on his cell phone. After a few iterations we settled at a 5 p.m. meeting. The meeting was to discuss two points that might come up in a high level meeting we are expecting soon. It was found that the students needed some time to organize their thoughts. We decided that they would send 3-4 lines on each point by mail and I'd give my feedback then.

A meeting that was supposed to be short became a feast of philosophy and its practical aspect, the central theme being "Freedom". I assured Prof. SH, Program Officer, NSS that I'd upload NSS survey form in Intinno by 6 p.m. once this meeting was over, and that I could do that only at 8 p.m.! Though the student posing most of the questions were constantly asking me if I was getting late. When you discuss freedom you are in touch with eternity :-) The hunger in mind was not in conflict with hunger in stomach either. Mr. Abhay Ghosh, looking after Electronic Circuit Lab. in our Dept. was distributing snacks packets to celebrate the institute award he received on institute foundation day for his contribution to athletics in inter-IIT meet. I told him that we would share one packet but he was not satisfied without giving one to each of us in the room. Thank you, Abhayada for the treat. We wish that you scale newer heights and get more such recognitions and we have more opportunities to celebrate.

The discussion started on the traditional line - a fiery youth finding fault with Government, Administration for all the malaise. Why there is no road, electricity, irrigation, quality health service and education in all parts of the country? We tried to understand what is this Government or Administration. If one reads policy documents, looks at various welfare schemes, money allocated for underprivileged sector even in a constrained resource country like India - the amount is huge and the direction well defined i.e. upliftment of masses. Why then it is not visible? We are failing in implementation. Use of information technology, use of management skill can take us up to a particular level. But man as an actor at various conversion nodes or interfaces are key. Unless we have compassionate, hard working individuals working in cohesion, no amount of policy statements, welfare initiatives are going to help. A former prime minister of India was saddened to see that out of every one rupee spent on welfare schemes only 12 paise reach the beneficiary. Where does the rest 88 paise go? We blame the system. It is you and me who are at different positions of this system in different avataras, different form. It is my father or your father or my friend's father or uncle or relative of someone amongst us who are there or who will be there. And why we need to go up to that extent? If someone asks what is the output of an NSS unit that has 800 volunteers like IIT Kharagpur or if we are doing enough, we shall come up with long list of excuses, exactly the same way people at the other side of the table do. As has been said, "No Nation is great or good, because Parliament enacts this or that, but because its men are great and good...Suppose the government gives you all you need, where are the men who will be able to keep up the things demanded? So make men first....Men, men, these are wanted, everything else will be ready, but strong, vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone, are wanted."

Therefore let us not indulge in blame game. Let us first try to fulfill my quota of service to the nation. Else, A blames B, B blames C, C blames D, ...., Y blames Z, Z blames A completing a full cycle. It might be a shocking surprise to A, a young student of IIT who was considering welfare of Z lying at the bottom of the pyramid, may be a small boy from a slum working in a tea shop or a fast food shop near IIT campus, to digest this. The boy Z does not know/understand B, C, D, ... Education service, Health service, Judiciary etc. What he everyday finds is that A is visiting the shop he serves in a jazzy cycle, costly sneaker, backpack, earphone feeding music from ipod and of course well-dressed and spending money almost at will (given the boy's standard of living). And the boy who works 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. earning Rs. 500 a month with a crippled mother and a little sister to feed might wonder if an IIT student could do more than blaming Govt., Admin. May be his sister was crying in hunger when he left home early morning for the shop. That it is not fiction or figment of imagination can be found from what an NSS volunteer reported sometime back (I discussed this in NSS orientation program).

"Today, I bought the study kit and presented it to the kid who works at a tea stall near .... He told me that he works from 7 in the morning till 11 at night and is paid a derisory salary of Rs 500 a month. He has a mother and a little sister to feed. His mother has a permanently crippled hand as a result of a fracture, and they could not provide her with good enough treatment. He has never been to school. He is 12. He has a lot of friends of his age who have indulged in activities like stealing, pick-pocketing, etc. And they jump over a wall to enter the campus for stealing....He was so ecstatic to see me. Since he has never been to a school before, he could count up to 30 and did not know the alphabet. I have kick-started the process by teaching him English alphabet. When I tried teaching him the Hindi alphabet, I came to know that I myself needed to revise that. Therefore, I believe I should better have study modules or some book to teach the Hindi alphabet. He seemed to be pretty much confused about addition; I began with simple additions involving things like a customer coming to his little tea stall and buying things. He quickly learnt that. He can't even read words in Hindi, leave aside English words. So, some very elementary things need to be taught to him, though its a different matter that the kind of life he lives teaches things the hard way."

Can we not provide this little ecstasy to the underprivileged in our neighbourhood and prepare ourselves for owning up greater responsibilities in future? I later sent them a few quotes of Holy Mather Sarada which can be found here

We discussed what is leading by examples. Can any evil thought come to my mind if Buddha or Christ or a Vivekananda stand before us? Their whole personality elevates the spirit of all around them. The nobleness in their character induces good thoughts and good deeds amongst many even now, and they have left their mortal frames hundreds of years ago. If we read their biography what a revolution they brought in their era and shows how much impact an individual can have on the society. Why then cannot we try to become an individual like this? Why don't we think that if a person is erring, me too is responsible in some way as I don't have enough strength of character or personality development to make him think otherwise. The role of education was discussed which is distancing itself from moral values. Can we say "We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet."

Then the question of priority came. And we entered into territory of freedom and was again surprised to see we are anything but playing into hands of others not being aware of that. Be it peer pressure or societal pressure or fear, I am not what I want to be, rather I am something which maintains some sort of equilibrium with people around me. We are not free even being the most gifted with the best of the intellect, security, connection ....why? Are we scared to be different? Will it raise a roar of laughter if I am off-beat? The society has an internal dynamics to maintain its state, its beats, a self-feeding loop, that asserts and reasserts itself saying "Ell is well" (not in Three Idiots sense though). This tries to justify one's deeds and securitize one's own and near & dear one's future. It happens in many a case imperceptibly, call it selfish gene or call it defence mechanism or Darwinism. Are we then slaves where the genetic code dictates me from within and the societal, peer pressure dictate me from outside? Are we happy with that? Can a slave ever be happy? Then do we actually pretend to be happy or think I must be happy now since I have this, this and these things according to societal norms? We must analyze this. We must give time to ourselves. We must be more than particles in Brownian motion, always bombarded with others' thoughts and processes and forced to act on that and have no time to sit quietly and meditate and understand the life's intricacies. A few weeks back I was attending a high level conference on Homeland Security where security experts from many countries came. In the plenary talk a renowned expert talked about significance of 'low faith signals' that remain hidden, buried under high intensity dominant signals. Whether you call it nature or God, whether it is our national security, caste tension, regional conflicts or our own physical health - there are advance warning but most often in the form of these 'low faith signals' and we fail to take note on this because we are swayed by high intensity other signals. The same is true for our life. We fail to recognize subtleties of life and get swayed by high intensity peer pressure.

If we meditate on ourselves, we might find correlation with what scripture says, "Bhuma iba sukham, Na alpe sukham asti." - Happiness lies in becoming big and not being small. And we have this innate urge to be happy that tells us to grow and grow and become bigger and bigger. What is the limit? When we become so big that we own the whole world, universe. In that situation, I am one with the world, everyone is mine, I embrace everyone. What is happening on the ground is that there is this desire to become Bhuma (big) which should be like that only. We must grow big, we must excel in academics, research, we must become CEOs, we must reach the highest. Well, everybody aspires that, then where is the difference? The difference is in enlarging our compartment as well as keeping the doors open. Whenever we close the doors we don't allow others in it and there is contraction and we become small mentally and we cannot be happy but only pretend to be happy. Let us understand that we need to grow big, raise our capacity so that we can serve more and more people. The more we do that the more is our happiness. There is no greater happiness than in giving.

One has to give time to oneself first to break one's own inertia. I must be in a position to set my own priorities. Else how am I free? It needs striving. As has been said, "Greatness lies not in where we stand but the direction we are moving." Can I set my own direction? As I said in a reply to my previous post, IITians are known for their problem solving skills. Can we get a bigger problem than addressing development parameters that are not inclusive and sustainable? Can there be a better solution than one which wipes tears and brings back smiles on millions of distressed countrymen? Can we set this as priority? Am I free to do that? If not, shall we begin another striving, another struggle for freedom?

I would like to end with an excerpt from Vivekananda's letter. Vivekananda is our National youth icon, his birthday is observed as National Youth Day. Let' s see how prepared we are to grow beyond our self-imposed limitations and open/free ourselves up to ideas like these. Vivekananda writes,

One idea that I see clear as daylight is that misery is caused by ignorance and nothing else. Who will give the world light? Sacrifice in the past has been the Law, it will be, alas, for ages to come. The earth's bravest and best will have to sacrifice themselves for the good of many, for the welfare of all. Buddhas by the hundred are necessary with eternal love and pity.

Religions of the world have become lifeless mockeries. What the world wants is character. The world is in need of those whose life is one burning love, selfless. That love will make every word tell like thunderbolt.

It is no superstition with you, I am sure, you have the making in you of a world-mover, and others will also come. Bold words and bolder deeds are what we want. Awake, awake, great ones! The world is burning with misery. Can you sleep? Let us call and call till the sleeping gods awake, till the god within answers to the call. What more is in life? What greater work?

(Completed. Correction if any awaited. Watch for the next post for a follow up!)

Monday, August 16, 2010


Got a phone call at later part of the summer vacation asking me to take up the role of NSS (National Service Scheme) Program Coordinator at IIT Kharagpur. Probably I could give little extra time, specially in NSS Annual Camp as NSS Program Officer in previous years. It is always challenging when you have a parallel responsibility of examining hundreds of answer-scripts and publish the result within strict deadline. May be I have little longer experience in community service related to work from my pre-teen days thanks to Still, my reaction was "I am fine as Program Officer. Let the existing set up continue. I shall be available for whatever service asked for." Earlier too when this was floated, I pleaded the same way. But this time I could feel that it is unavoidable. Remembered the story of Panchatantra. Could pursue that I would look after all the NSS activities except the finance and I am happy to say I am being ably supported there.

Since last NSS Annual Camp (Nov-Dec 2009) I had several consultations with a group of NSS volunteers to understand their perspective. The number of such meetings were more than 10 and majority of them lasted more than 2 hours. I am thankful to these students for their time and for educating me.

We understood that a good beginning can make a lot of difference. First of all, there is an issue with motivation. The students largely do not understand how NSS is going to benefit him/her, the society that sustains us and his/her relationship with the society; how important it is to have an inclusive and sustainable growth for everybody's survival; how this helps in learning team work, leadership, problem solving skills etc. which enriches one's personal space too. Therefore, this year we started with well rehearsed NSS orientation program in institute auditorium.

The next problem faced was that of number. Only the larger auditoriums which usually is used for larger functions (and not these activities) can accommodate 800 NSS volunteers at a time. Also this work is not lecture, class test, sem. exam. based. Each program officer taking care of 100 students find mentoring, evaluating job really difficult. Therefore, we looked for restructuring. Each of this 100 students units were divided into 10-20 member groups. Each group has a Group Leader and one Deputy Group Leader coming from 2nd year students and one Deputy Group Leader from 1st year students. We have empowered leaders in several ways. Besides that, every month end we are going to have a combined meeting of all group leaders, deputy leaders, program officers to take stock of the situation and for inter unit/group exchanges of idea, support and service.

A big problem faced was that of communication with students - 800 of them interspersed in all the hostels and NSS office at Rural Development Centre (RDC) is the farthest establishment from hostels. For every single occasion one had to put notices on all hall notice boards which often got overlooked or crowded out. The students had difficulty to go up to RDC to see 'What's New', more so because there was no academic activity in the neighbourhood. To solve that we are using Intinno, a learning management system developed by our own ex-students. Till date 650 out of 800 students have enrolled there and all announcements/notices are instantly delivered in a student's mailbox. Also, a student query is addressed in less than 24 hours. For emergency, they are asked to call in my cellphone.

The other problem faced was randomness in assignment of activity. This time during enrolment we gave a choice of 10 NSS activities to each student. The program officers among themselves chose mentoring some of these activities according their area of expertize and interest. Based on these two, group formation had been done and we hope the volunteers will be able to contribute more by this.

Next we found that in some of the activities the students attend just to become a part of the crowd and get attendance recorded. There is no involvement of any kind and more importantly they do not feel proud of their presence in that assembly. This year NSS, IITKGP proactively participated in Independence Day function by following a dress code (it gave a beautiful disciplined look), publishing a newsletter (link given below, NSS IITKGP is going to have its own webpage soon) besides providing services like distribution of food packet etc. The audience appreciated this reinvention of NSS team and the volunteers felt proud of themselves.
The link appears in Google buzz of mine as well as many NSS student volunteers. I am tempted to talk in their language - NSS IIT KHARAGPUR ROCKS.

Whether you call it statistical aberration or 'chalta hai' attitude that finds its way in young mind because of systematic failure, there are always a few students who take this 'zero credit' course casually. This time we took it very strongly and wrote to respective Head of the Department and Faculty Adviser to counsel the students. We ourselves also remain available for any kind of assistance. Hope, this will not leave any weak link anywhere in the activities undertaken.

Last semester we invited S.D.O. Kharagpur to address NSS volunteers. Based on his suggestion and his call to act as 'facilitator' this time we are looking for better coordination of S.D.O., B.D.O. and Panchayat office and an activity group has been created for this. We are always in contact with the Deputy Magistrate who is our point of contact at S.D.O. office.

I shall talk more about individual 10-12 NSS activities when we make some progress there.

All these are being made possible for the tremendous support I am receiving from my program officers and the institute administration. It is their love for our young students, to see them excel academically as well as a to grow as a responsible citizen of the country, brought and bind the entire team together. I cite a recent example here. On 15th Aug., one NSS volunteer told me that he faced some problem when he visited a village school in the neighbourhood the previous day i.e. 14th Aug. On 16th Aug., four of us - myself, one program officer, NSS Head and EAA Coordinator went to that school and addressed the problem. Besides this program officers/ coordinators are visiting work sites, taking weekly appraisal and helping the students in all possible way. We amongst us, the officers, have created a mailgroup and remain constantly updated. Fortnightly we meet for 1.5-2 hours and take stock of the situation. And we are receiving full support from institute administration. Hope, together we shall be able to make NSS at IITKGP stronger and the experience meaningful.

I am thankful to my book publisher, research collaborators and others from whom I requested a window of 2-3 weeks. I believe that I could utilize the break fruitfully and NSS at IITKGP is on a roll. Late last evening, I finished writing annual report of NSS to be submitted to NSS HQ. That completes a full circle and now the hierarchy takes over.

(Thanks to Srichandana and the NSS IIT Kharagpur Newsletter team for the photos)