Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Stay strong, stay inspired

Chetan Bhagat in this article suggests some good tips on how to grab Media Attention and hence ignite masses to win this War for Merit!

Stay strong, stay inspired

Chetan Bhagat May 30, 2006

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article against reservations and sent it to a trusted journalist friend (TJF). The article was in the form of an open letter to the prime minister. TJF replied that even though the article sounded heartfelt and the arguments were valid, she could not use it. The reason, she said, was simple. She told me a lot of what I was saying had already been said. The case for merit, equality, Indian competitiveness was already out in the open. Her newspaper would not repeat the same argument again.

I took her point and withdrew the article. However, it struck me that in many situations, the media will not cover something relevant just because well, it is not entertaining enough.

I had a call with another senior journalist friend (yes, I have journalists as friends -- I have no life, I know). We discussed the reservation issue -- on how it was practically more relevant to middle class Indians than any other issue. While the issue does get coverage, it has not ignited minds and galvanised the middle class. Somehow the issue is not getting as forceful a treatment. Fanaa's ban in Gujarat attracted far more media space for instance.

"The reason quite simply is the lack of a dramatic event. Ten years back, kids were burning themselves. Nothing of that sort is happening now. And the media is so immune now, to get them interested young people need to do more", was what she told me.

I am not here to do moral posturing. And I do respect her opinion. So I will not go into the "Media these days" rant. I will only take some lessons from a senior person in the media and try to give some tips to the activists to make sure their protests are more effective. After all, the point of making a noise is to be heard. And to be heard, one doesn't have to burn himself -- that is foolish and a one-time flash in the pan. If you want to do an effective protest, learn from the past masters -- and who better than Mahatma Gandhi.

In photographs, Mahatma Gandhi is a frail, saintly figure. However, what is often ignored is his magical ability to make a point and attract attention. He had no advertising budgets or PR managers. There were very few media outlets then. And he had only one, constant -- freedom. Yet, he dominated media space for decades and ultimately won. There is no reason why we cannot learn a few tips from him, some of which I list below. And you can get these checked by any media professional; they would tend to agree that this is a way to get yourself heard.

1. Keep a visual -- This is vital in today's multimedia world. Newspapers need to be colourful to compete with television, and a television is not a television without a visual. Gandhi kept a visual -- salt march (everyone remembers the scooping of salt), burning British made clothes, operating the charkha and more. Placards are boring. Do something else -- a huge bonfire, human chains -- be creative, make it easier for NDTV. They will come, I promise.

2. Emotions more than Reason -- Whenever activists talk to the media, always keep emotions in the forefront. Brooding anger, tears, banging fists is far more interesting than statistics on caste based demographics. Tell people what you think about the issue -- you are on the editorial page. Tell people what you feel about the issue -- you are on the front page.

3. Intentions more than Action -- This is a trick most used by our politicians even today. In reality, actions alone matter. However, our politicians keep saying 'our intention is to lift the backward castes', and they almost sound reasonable. Of course, the actions only divide the country and kill merit -- but they hide in the garb of purported good intentions. Protestors can do the same. They may be blocking traffic -- but harp on the intentions: 'But this is for Saraswati mata -- knowledge should decide'. (Think about it -- the politicians will be scared to take on Saraswati mata or if you mix any religious sentiment in your favour). Alongside, attack the other party's intentions -- 'they are only doing reservations for selfish political gain' (which is probably true).

4. Don't hurt yourself -- Burning yourself or even hunger strikes are very dangerous tools. There is no guarantee they will be effective. If they don't work, you will be seen as weak. Gandhi used a hunger strike rarely, and only after he had decades of experience.

5. Find a simple, interesting slogan -- Gandhi always had a simple slogan. It gives two benefits -- one it makes it easier to pass through word of mouth with minimal distortion. Secondly, it fits into the limited headline space in newspapers. In media terms, this is called 'the hook'. The reservation movement has no slogan yet. Find one. My suggestions: "No suck-up politics" OR "India on Merit only"

The above points are important to make your cause heard. Ignore them and the world will ignore you. Play them right and the media is on your side. Trust me; the reservation issue has bothered a lot of people in the media too.

I personally feel very strongly against reservations, and I wish the agitators all the best. I give the above tips as my small contribution towards tackling this monumental issue that will take effort from all of us. I am writing this article for an online site so that you can forward it to all friends who feel the same about reservations.

You are standing up for fairness, God will be with you. Stay strong, stay inspired.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Advani on quota: Don't harm merit

BJP looks like is confused over which way to go on issue of reservation. It makes "vote bank" sense to remain silent but what about the party ideology?

Surprisingly the ideology master of BJP - the RSS which otherwise have something to say on every issue under the sun has suddenly disappeared from the entire canvas.

Well let me take the effort of reminding BJP how to look about it. These guys used to talk a lot about Article 370 or Uniform Civil Code. What these "beliefs" have to do on the issue of reservation? Well on a deeper level it all looks connected to me. Article 370 talks about "reserving" special state status of Kashmir while Uniform Civil Code is positioned against unequal treatment to various sections of the society.

I am sure that this silence of BJP will hurt it as its traditional stronghold of the Urban 'elites' in the cow belt are the ones directly opposed to the reservation and also BJP is failing to carry the responsibility of the opposition, to carry the voice of the people to the deaf ears of the government.

Hence, we all know that all this political parties has only one agenda, how to be in power and therefore how to secure vote banks. India needs a break from all these selfish parties who makes loud claims but actually are the greatest threat to nation. Get lost BJP, Get lost Congress, and get lost all the left, DMK, AIDMK, TDP, BSP, SP,JD, SS, RSS, and all such rubbish acronyms.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Nehru's View on Reservation!

The following newspaper article dated June 27, 1967 clearly puts forth the views of Jawaharlal Nehru on reservation. Wake up Arjun Singh!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mission Moon

A slightly modified version of a email fwd:

Manmohan Singh to Bush - We are sending Indians to the moon next year.
Bush - Wow! How Many?
Manmohan Singh - 100
27 - OBC
25 - SC
20 - ST
5 - Handicapped
5 - Sports Persons
5 - Terrorist Affected
5 - Kashmiri Migrants
8 - Politicians (Ministers without portfolios)

Astronauts should keep faith in the government to protect the legitimate interests of scientific community and their lunar aspirations.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The price of reservation

by Prof P. V. Indiresan Monday, May 15, 2006 in The Hindu Business Line

Usually, media memory is short. Most stories are forgotten at the end of the day; few last a week. Unusually, interest in the reservation controversy has not died down even after two months. Evidently, this controversy touches a raw nerve; people cannot get over their hurt easily.

Considering the degree of interest in the topic, there is surprisingly few hard facts known about the issue. IITs have had reservation for students belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes for over 30 years. There is no public information of how the beneficiaries have fared, or how well they have performed in the profession compared to regular students, or compared to SC/ST students from other less prestigious colleges.

Tamil Nadu experience

Tamil Nadu has the longest experience with reservation. With almost 80 per cent admissions and posts reserved, it has the most extensive application of that device. The Tamil Nadu experience can be described both as a success and as a failure. It is a success because backward castes have wrested the leadership — both in the academic and administrative spheres — apart from acquiring total command of the political space. Not only have the backward castes taken command, they have also made Tamil Nadu one of the most successful States.

Reservation in Tamil Nadu can also be declared as a failure on two counts: Even after three-quarters of a century, the backward castes are unwilling to compete openly. There are third, even fourth generation beneficiaries of reservation who are unable to get over their dependence on the handicaps reservation provides for them. It appears, reservation is a crutch, not a remedy.

The success of backward castes in Tamil Nadu appears to be partly due to emigration of upper castes: There are few Brahmins, Mudaliars, Naidus, Pillais or Chettiars to contend with; quite a few have migrated out of the State. There is no analysis how far the loss of so much human capital has hurt (or helped) the State.

Yet, it would be incorrect to conclude that backward castes can never stand up to competition. Once again, we have no hard data to rely on. However, anecdotal evidence points to the view that competent persons among the backward castes never flaunt their caste badge; they want to be known and respected for what they achieve — they stand tall. On the other hand, weaker but ambitious persons make their caste a fetish. They make noise louder and frequently; they get noticed more often.

Consider the visibility of capable students in the job market. They know what they want. They get selected promptly and vanish from the scene after no more than one or two job interviews. The least competitive ones are unsure of where they can succeed. They try again and again only to be rejected. They are noticeable everywhere. Particularly when they wear the caste badge, they will be shortlisted even when not well qualified.

Fooled by noise

With competent students appearing but few times, the less competent ones appearing frequently, the latter appear to be far larger in numbers than they actually are. Logically, the proportion of competent backward castes must be several times higher than what they appear to be in selection committees. That is like the case of a farmer who ruefully remarked after promising to supply a thousand frogs "the noise sure fooled me!"

There is yet another reason why backward students under-perform. As a natural corollary of the Reservation Principle, teaching posts have been reserved on caste basis. That is a cardinal error. What poor students need most are the best teachers available, not the least qualified. Dr Sowell, a distinguished professor from Stanford, was once asked on his visit to Madras (as it was then) whether he would prefer Black teachers to teach Black students (Prof Sowell is Black.) His answer was, "I do not care whether the teacher is White, Black or Blue; I want the best!"

Quality teaching, the key

Unfortunately, this basic principle has been discarded by our policymakers, who have grossly under-estimated the importance of teaching quality. In the process, they have run down state-run schools. In the past fifty years, the population of Chennai has increased almost ten times. Yet, many schools run by the City Corporation have been closed for "want of students". In truth, it cannot be that the students, but the quality of teachers selected that was found wanting.

It is a recorded fact that discipline among school teachers has come down. Across the country, half the time teachers are not attending to class work at all. It is a fact that most students in Delhi's Corporation schools cannot do simple arithmetic — multiply two-digit numbers — even after five years of education. Yet, as one NIIT experiment has shown, given a chance, they can pick up computer skills on their own.

In the prevailing ethos of reservation, a person can get the benefits of reservation without making any payment in return. That contravenes a natural law that is colloquially described as "there is no free lunch". In engineering, such systems are known as "perpetual-motion" machines, machines that run forever without any input. For every transaction, there has to be entries on both sides of the ledger. A price has to be paid for the gains made by reservation. There is no escape from that law. Then, what is the price the beneficiaries of reservation pay for the benefit they get? One price they have paid is lowered quality of education in state-run schools, inferior opportunities to learn; in consequence, endemic poverty too. Is that price worth paying?

As one correspondent has pointed out, reservation is like declaring a boundary scored in a cricket game as a six if hit by a backward caste player. Such artificial boost appears beneficial. It may not be. As one SC student remarked: "I won a degree in the IIT but lost my self-image." How many students would have done better with their lives if they had been exposed to what they can master, instead of being subjected to a difficult drill for which they were not trained, we do not know.

How far has the Reservation Policy has helped the poor, has reduced the rich-poor gap? The average family income of SC students in IIM Ahmedabad is twice that of the others. Is that an exception, or is it true of other institutions too? That is the problem: We have no data on which to base reasoned decisions. Our political masters are unwilling to generate much needed information on this issue, nor or they willing to consider any alternative. At the same time, they have acquired the power to declare as constitutionally illegal any institution that operates on a caste-free basis.

Friend or foe?

Is everyone who promotes reservation a friend of the backward castes? Is everyone who questions reservation at university level an enemy of backward castes?

Who hurts backward castes more: Those who deny good school education or those who want well-run schools?

A proposal to identify and give special education to talented backward caste students has been before the government for over 25 years, and still finds no support. Strange are the ways of our democracy, of government of some people, by some people for themselves.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Knowledge Commission not above the Constitution - Arjun Singh

Arjun Singh said that the National Knowledge Commission is not above the Constitution and added that he was not willing to talk to them.

Yeah.. knowledge is not above the constitution but it is lying somewhere out of India in NASA, or Silicon Valley or London or Singapore.

Why do we need knowledge to run the country. We can work very well with reservations or temples or our God like politicians. Why do we need people with IQ of 150? Why can't India not do same by six people each of IQ 25. Anyway one out of six person in the world is an Indian.

"We are not a banana republic," he said.

Excellent! We are indeed not a banana republic. Looks like Arjun Singh did in fact went to school. But if we are not banana republic then why are this god-damned politicians trying so hard to make us one.

Why are these politicians not afraid of fragmenting the country on basis of merit. Don't they realize that the merit will concentrate on the other side and kick all of this politicians really hard. Who will save these politicians if god-forbids a time come when "unreserved-deserved" burnt with mandal turns into terrorists.

Arjun Singh its still time to make the corrections and return back to work for India Shinning. A India Whining is not your mission. The 'D' in your HRD ministry is for Development and not Damaging.

and Mr Prime Minister, I think its time for you to say "Arjun Singh, you are fired"!