Monday, June 27, 2016

A Rose By Any Other Name

These days, somehow, the idea of classification, stratification, categorization, reservation-no matter what you prefer calling it, at the end of it, the idea of discrimination-surrounds me.

Aparna recently was on a visit to Korea to present a paper in an(other) "international" conference. Upon her return when I asked whether the idea of living in another country fascinated her, she said that she would like to visit not settle. She felt that the hospitality of people lasts for not too long and lasts up until the natives begin to feel that there is 'some other person' in their territory-talk about guests and meat stinking after three days! What interested me was not about the natives yet about a young western girl (performing the duties of a secretary) who had been assigned to take care of the logistics during the conference. The white girl ensured that the fifth floor, from where the view was the best, was carefully allotted to the whites (only whites), keeping the next floor for the Asians (the browns) and the lower floor for the Africans (the blacks). Except the whites, the rest were restlessly uncomfortable with this logic of separation and everyone's discomfort was choice-fully ignored; and you know why. God! I thought... it must have looked like stripes on the United Colors of Benetton though I didn't think out loud and chose to reserve my comments.

Personally, recently I had a humbling experience learning that the word 'discrimination' is quite offensive and too difficult a 'word' for people to digest if one uses it to communicate a more offensive, difficult and deliberate 'action' of the 'other.' I was soon to realize that, you would be advised-with utmost sincerity by the 'other'-to use more 'diplomatic' words to portray the violence without offending the violent. This diplomatic use of words assures that perpetrators of violence and injustice, remain unoffended and unaffected and receive the required sanction to carry on with what they do sans hurting their ego, conscience and sentiments; meanwhile abolishing everyone who would take a chance with words and offend them or perhaps prompt their conscience and attempt to stop them from doing what they otherwise do with comfort. Safe and sound in their serene shangrila of immorality, assured uncouthed impunity by thrusting the idea of diplomacy on others. While claiming to live in a civilized world, the cowardly few, carry on with their most uncivilized actions with no one to offend, question or stop their cowardly action with nevertheless-words-or perhaps the lack of it. It seems that the want to live in a "civilized" world (whatever that means) applies to only them and no one else...

Just imagine a situation where you are driving on a dark, curvy road at night and you just forgot to dim the car's headlight for an approaching vehicle. Do you think the guy who is driving towards you is going to take it easy, digest your mistake and cheer the idea of being diplomatic and polite?! Of course not! Before the vehicle zips by, your entire family's history, geography, dignity and honor would have completely collapsed with the choicest use of well rehearsed words, leaving you with time for a thoughtful reflection for a while within the comforts of your car and the audience of the ones travelling with you. What emerges out of this (so called) 'filthy, vulgar, impolite and undiplomatic' use of words is that the next guy who will be driving past you, is assured a dimming of headlight as a response sans a reminder or a need for request. An automatic and classical conditioning to respond to a stimulus. Thanks to the unreasonable, undiplomatic and indecent bugger(!) my action becomes more reasonable, diplomatic and decent... isn't it?

Diplomatic communication, I think is a trick on us. While we try to scramble, juggle and trampoline our brain into choosing a 'better' word, like we do in a game of scrabble, those smart cookies who hide their sins under the blanket of diplomacy, play the game with no one to stop them and escape in the cover of diplomacy and claim for civilization. What else will one call that racist, discriminating, secretary from the west-reliving in a prehistoric world with a retarded, apartheid-mindset-who threw people on different floors based upon their colour-anything but... 

'A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a
base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,
hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a
lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,
glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;
one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a
bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but
the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar,
and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I
will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest
the least syllable of thy addition.'?!* 

Note: ...if anyone has a problem with the use of words, kindly take it to Sir William Shakespeare. *lines extracted from King Lear by William Shakespeare for my lack of 'diplomatic' words to refer to the otherwise wonderful Secretary.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Verse Libre From A Prison

Every time one runs...
runs from something,
towards something else,
leaves behind what once he called 'home'.

A home, at times, a prison for many.
To escape, to run.

Far away into the distance,
to turn over a new leaf, to start a story afresh.
Stories stitched into a tapestry-
gathering tatters some from here and some from there;
stories that shackles hold and forbidden told
held together with stitches running bold.
Man runs; a man made to run.

An abode for a while, a menage perhaps (?!)
or a space for a bit to relax.
The farther he runs, the more the pain
with shackles that restrain.
Yet, man runs.

Alas! he runs into a sanctuary green
serene and sound it only seems.
A prison in its own making far away from home,
a glorious grain of a story retold,
thoughts of another prison just enfolds.
Man runs.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Misinterpreting Nietzsche

Very often, as often as we often do, we take a few lines (out of context) and we dare to commit the blunder of maligning the very nature of the person who spoke by highlighting the parts sans understanding the whole.

Friedrick Nietzsche, said to be a devil, an anti-Christ, a wicked man who was supposed to have said, "God is dead" actually did not say (just) that; yet if people had (only) read the whole, would have perhaps understood that he said just the opposite of what we remember him for. Here are the infamous lines that made him famous...

Said Friedrick Nietzsche, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” 

which is not the same as "God is dead." or is it?!

One more misunderstood person manipulated in History by a maligned lot.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Truth About India

India has been a lot more than a country of slums, snake charmers, street magicians doing rope tricks, men with turbans, women with pots on their head and hungry children-no matter how hard the world tries to project or stereotype it to make it fit into the limitations of their taste and mental capacity. India has always been and will be a land filled with wonders and surprises: The founding father of surgery may be traced to Sushruta-a man who taught and practiced surgery on the banks of the river Ganga, who also authored the Sushruta Samhita which had volumes consisting of procedures to perform complicated surgeries 2600 years ago;  our contribution to the field of math is mentionable too-from giving zero its value to calculating the value of pi and by introducing the concepts of trigonometry, algebra and calculus, place value, the decimal system and quadratic equations, we have counted ourselves in; Spices, herbs, ayurveda and yoga have helped in the prevention and curing of illnesses at its root cause for centuries in India; even most of the religious customs followed in India are science-backed; like sitting cross-legged with a straight back that helps in digestion or the early morning ritual of drawing kolams (geometrical designs) at the entrance of the house that helps aid hand-eye coordination; every character that has ever been portrayed and will be in audio, visual or print, are said to be traced to fit into a character that appears in the two great Indian epics-Ramayana and Mahabharata. India was home to the Indus valley civilization, a group of settlers over 5000 years ago when most of the rest of the world were still nomads. The world’s first university flourished in Takshila in India in 600 B.C with over 10, 500 students learning over 68 subjects that included Vedas, languages, philosophy, politics, astronomy and medicine besides other interesting ones as well. The first residential university in the world with over 10, 000 students, 200 teachers and 300 lecture halls is the Nalanda University which was started in the fifth century in India. With its strong value and belief system established on non-violence, India has never attempted to invade any country so far and further provides safety to refugees escaping religious and political prosecution from Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. From Aryabhatta’s revelations about astronomy to Chanakya’s revelations about state administration-from Vatsayana’s Kamasutra to Tagore’s Gitanjali-from ideas of Dharm, Gnaya and Neethi to the concept of Ahimsa and Nirvana (ideas that will lose its meaning and essence if attempted to be translated)-from dance to drama-from methods of agriculture to methods of irrigation-from logic to reasoning-from emphasis on the rationale to the emphasis on the emotional-from management to administration-from ethics to values-from philosophy to astronomy-from medicine to games and sports-from music to martial arts-from art and literature to culinary taste-India has a bounty of information hidden within the safe threshold of its vernacular limitation. It is a land rich in diversity and a true Union of States with every State having the capacity to serve its array of intelligence, knowledge and wisdom in its own unique way.

Despite all these, India still struggles to break free from the shadows of colonialism. Even the first and world-renowned Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur was set up in the Hijli Detention Camp where many patriots were imprisoned during the British rule in India-which may be an ample metaphor for the context. Indian’s obsession with cricket, a game left over by the colonial masters, happens over the repudiation of its own games such as kabaddi and hockey-which is analogous to the way western educational models have been taken up, upheld and glorified while renouncing their own system of education. If only and only if India like Finland chose to alter its course and set right its path and return to the basics and took pride in its own design that would hold its uniqueness and identity that may find contextual value and relevance and decides not to submit to universal confirmation to authority...

Said Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosopher and President-whose birthday on September 5th is celebrated as Teacher’s Day, ‘Nations, like individuals, are made, not only by what they acquire but by what they resign.’

If only India realizes…

(Excerpts from A paper I am working on to be presented at an International Conference in Korea this month.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Kitnay Aadmi Thay

Following an interesting NEWS on the Indian media, ''How can 18,000 judges tackle 3 crore cases, CJI TS Thakur asks PM Modi", a small dialogue from a classical movie came across my mind:

The Sholay of our times..
Gabbar : Hmmmm.... Kitane aadmi thay Thakur?
Thakur: sardar.. Three Crore aadmi the.

Gabbar: hmmm.. three crore aadmi ? .... SOOWAR KE BACHCHO.. woh three crore the aur tum 18000?! .. phir bhi waapas aagayeye . khaali haath.. kya samaz kar aaye the?.. sardar bahot khus hoga sabasi dega kyoon? DHIKKAR HAI ... Arre O Saambha...

Gabbar: Soona.. poore 18000.. aur itna isliye hai ke yaha se pachas pachas kos door gaanw me jab bachcha raat ko rota hai to maa kahti hai beta soja ..soja nahi to Sureme Court aa jaayega. Aur yeh teen haraam Supreme Court kaa naam poora mitti me milaay diye..iski sajaa milegi.. baraabar milegi...

(ek aadmi se revolver leta hai aur usse poochhta hai)
DAMAAR! Damaar! damaar! (18000 times) Isko bhi case may dalo! ek our file open caro Sarkar-kay Office may. kya farak padda (?!) eko ou'ur kol'kay...

And its a never ending story...

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Nature Of Commodification

“It is very simple to be happy, but it is very difficult to be simple.” Rabindranath Tagore

A few years ago, in India, a classic painting of a legendary artist got into a controversy not for the content but for its portrayal; perhaps, the portrayal seemed too real rather than figurative for the fringe groups of violent observers to digest. The artist was forced to leave the country for his depiction of ‘Mother India’ in art. This particular piece of art where two bulls ravage a child and the mother with a spear-like line running through with droplets, suggests India's fate in the backdrop of communal violence that tore Bombay apart during a particular point of time. The Mother simply is not able to escape the clutches of this horror as the child (India) barely retains its cling on her. The spear shedding that droplets (perhaps blood, perhaps sweat, perhaps tear...) shows the painter's frustration and anger; probably those droplets are those last few drops that the mad people who ruthlessly carnage our country finally manage to squeeze from it. This classic painting that shows the helplessness of rape and the agony of the people who are caught between this politically instigated power struggle got every beholder brewing with anger for its powerful depiction, content and the direct titling got a minority to think and reflect before the majority decided to silence the artist rather than the issue that was in focus. This controversial painting was titled, 'The Rape of Mother India' and the artist was none other than Maqbool Fida Husain. 

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Benito Mussolini

A Shift of the ‘Unseens’
To begin with, Kerala is a beautiful state in terms of its rich natural bounty though within a narrow path of land. For an outsider who would conclude Kerala as a small state from what it appears on a map, that could be a gross mistake. If its topography were to be considered, the hills that fill most of Kerala are like apartments that houses more fauna, flora and human settlements in steps, stages and layers and has more land area than what appears. Kerala is bigger than it seems and is quite cleverly hidden-the obvious yet ‘unseen one.’
Kerala is said to be a favourite destination for tourists. According to information pulled straight out of public documents, during the year 2014, Kerala recorded a 12.11 per cent increase in the total revenue from the tourism sector, which is supposedly the backbone of the state's economy. The total number of tourists who visited the state from various countries was recorded at 8, 58, 143. The number of foreign tourists who visited the country showed an increase of 7.60 per cent in 2014 than its previous year and the number of domestic tourists recorded a rise of 7.71 per cent while the total revenue (both direct and indirect) from tourism was estimated at Rs 22, 926.55 crore during the period.
The tourism industry feels that visitors prefer to come to Kerala during September to January. This is mainly because the festival season in Kerala is from September-January. Robinet Jacob, Director, School of Tourism Studies, MG University, mentions that, the average stay of tourists in Kerala is the highest varying from minimum of one to two weeks, due to which the revenue earning from tourism is also high in the state.
The problem with these statistics is that it does not define a ‘foreign visitor'. Kerala is a state with perhaps one of the highest mobility rates a.k.a emigration that results in Non Residential Indians (NRI) who quite occasionally travel to India with foreign passports. People seldom travel when they find a festival in some destination that is so attractive that they would suspend their job, education or any other regular activity of life they are engaged in their homeland. Rather, the season is made to fit into the tourist’s arrival and tourist’s arrival based upon the holiday the tourist gets. State government data shows that there are about 16.3 lakh non-resident Keralites (the Centre for Development Studies puts the figure at a much higher 24 lakhs). These are people who are settled in what we call the Gulf or the West-places where the holiday season is during Eid, Muharram and Christmas-holidays that fall between September and January (seems like a coincidence!) A chunk of these so called ‘foreign travelers’ must be local people who speak the vernacular, who travel to Kerala on a foreign passport for their (atleast) yearly-once-visits they try to make during holidays; these are people who are compelled to mark themselves as ‘tourists’ upon arrival whose visits last for a week or two before they depart, as the statistics suggests as well.
Meanwhile, Non Resident Indian (NRI) deposits in Kerala crossed the magic mark of Rs 1 lakh crore, soaring by more than 17% from Rs 93,884 crore to Rs 1.1 crore (at the end of 2014-15) in the space of just one year, according to data collected by the state level bankers committee (SLBC). Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data shows that there was a little over $115 billion in NRI accounts in India, which is about Rs 7 lakh crores. Kerala, thus accounts for roughly a sixth of all the money deposited in NRI accounts-a monstrous amount, almost five times more compared to Kerala’s revenue from tourism. Perhaps, in purely monetary terms and considering statistics and data as a guide for arriving at logic, Kerala is economically better off keeping the NRI abroad rather than welcoming them home as tourists. Tourism is smaller than it seems and the actual visitor (the NRI) is not even a tourist and remains cleverly hidden-the ‘unseen two.’
Further still, tourists will have their own sense of logic and rationale to choose their destination of travel and sadly our country’s statistics do not show a very favourable tourist-friendly climate. The total number of crimes registered against foreign nationals in 2014 stood at 384. There is, however, no comparison data as the Ministry of Tourism said it does not maintain such data and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) began compiling such data only in 2014.  The number of foreign tourists arriving in India dropped by 25% during the first three months of 2013, largely because of fears about the risk of sexual assault, according to an industry survey. The number of female tourists fell by 35% in 2013 compared to the previous year due to wide-spread global reaction to the sexual assault and the murder of a girl in the country’s capital that year. The concoction made with the presence of global fear and insecurity and our habit to sensationalize and tarnish our own identity and image without missing an opportunity that affects us in more ways than we perhaps see-the ‘unseen three.’

“By plucking her petals you do not gather the beauty of the flower.” Rabindranath Tagore in Stray Birds

The Other Side
Today, we live in a world that sells ideas. Everything we consume is hardly real; rather, they are just ideas of reality that we consume. The tomato we consume is not really a tomato anymore; rather, it is just an idea suggested to our senses that we seem to accept. Like tomatoes, cars, batteries, nature, water bodies, human dignity and our way of life have become an idea rather than reality that seems to be constructed around the idea of consumption; everything to be bargained for in a world where everything is up for sale and disposable.
In the context of tourism and exploitation, a few variables seem to be dependant and correlate finally.  A 748-page study called "Trafficking in Women and Children in India," sponsored by the National Human Rights Commission, said, India is fast becoming a hotspot for child-sex tourism. In India, the abuse of both male and female children by tourists has acquired serious dimensions. Goa and Kerala are the places often visited by tourists in search of child sex and beach boys, shack owners and former victims of pedophiles. 
Kerala, Goa, and other tourist destinations are hot-spots for western pedophiles, offenders who often escape to their own countries with impunity. 
Meanwhile, the Indian government has introduced the tourist visa on arrival enabled with Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for travelers from 43 countries in November, 2014. “This will enable Kerala to receive more overseas tourists in the coming years,” says A.P Anilkumar, minister for Tourism in a recent NEWS report. Perhaps the Minister, like many others, values tourism above human issues, unaware of the irreparable and irreversible damages it causes that may be conveniently pushed to his fellow-minister from the crime desk to handle along with the blame.

Commodification and its Effect
Land is no longer the source of food and shelter, but the source of money and is seen as a ‘real estate’-and by doing so, we choose to see it as a commodity and distance ourselves from it rather than see it as a sustainer of life and learn to live closer with nature and what is natural. It is often a questionable irony that water considered scarce in certain areas and often unavailable to the natives even for basic daily needs, is found flowing in abundance in swimming pools, jacuzzis and towering fountains in a hotel, spa or resort in the same area for anyone who can pay a price. 
Beautiful areas, once sacred are now the sites of expensive hotels, spas and resorts; coastal areas which supported the livelihood of fishermen are getting converted to domains for recreational activities such as sunbathing, open air pubs, surfing, jet skiing and any other silly adventure sports. In the name of establishing Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) for the safety of the fisherman, he along with his tools, home and family has been forcefully evicted from the beach and the stolen spaces have been handed over to giant corporates to set up hotels, spas and resorts-just as tribals are forcefully evicted from the forests for corporate houses to build tree houses, game reserves and jungle cottages in a pretext to encourage sustainable tourism or like when a farmer loses his fertile agricultural land that soon gets converted to an airport or a golf course with a helipad in a pretext to develop a commercial infrastructure for economic development or like how coconut trees are cut from beaches in the pretext of clearing grass (apparently coconut tree is technically only a (tall) grass as the Goan government recently figured out) to provide accessibility for the tourism industry and hotel lobbyists to expand-seems like spaces considered unsafe for the ordinary becomes safe haven for the wealthy just with a change of policy and lobbying at the right places and at certain levels.
The very way of life changes all stakeholders after this point when a business model takes over and dictates life in strategies and operations and brings it to a question of survival. For displaced people like our fisherman for instance, even access to beaches near these newly established infrastructures is strictly regulated or more often denied. In the context of developing/promoting tourism the tourist spot goes through environmental modification and landscaping, wherein a quest to profit maximization makes even a small group of competing elite to establish their tourism-based business excluding their own community to make space for alien, distant and foreign visitors in the process. Perhaps, the displaced fisherman without a livelihood will be invited with his family to sing a song of their misery to entertain the foreign audience staying in these hotels and that too for a bargain.

The Process Continuum
Development of tourist superstructures, such as hotel facilities and entertainment also eventually becomes supporting factors for certain practices to emerge like smuggling, gambling, drugs, prostitution, trafficking, bonded labour, slavery, child labour, land grabbing, mafia, crime and other allied serious social-legal disturbances. It often has been observed that in tourism, civil and political rights along with socio-economic and cultural rights are not always respected. People's dignity and privacy is disrespected when even loss, vulnerability and suffering of certain indigenous groups are optimized for building business opportunities in the name of tourism. For instance, when disruption and loss were made ‘exhibits’ for attracting tourists when communities were affected by tsunami in South India or when communities were affected by war in the North and East of Srilanka in the advent of a recently developed concept called ‘disaster tourism.’ This phenomenon may also be blamed for the delay in establishing progressive settlements, delay in rebuilding, reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation and for delayed justice at the end of the day for the so affected communities.
Tourism as an industry, an alternative and altered way of life, is evoked to fill the unemployment lines within the state in an attempt to cover up unavailable social security, by promoting the hotel and tourism industry. Increasingly, many natives fall for this trap to convert skills, traditions, customs and nature to money-making ventures, not by choice but out of economic necessity. It is also a paradox to witness that the so called ‘lucrative’ tourism sector with ever-growing opportunities, is also a low-paying service industry that, no matter how huge the numbers of tourists, it always generates low-paying jobs. Consequently, many think of tourism as the only employment opportunity and are trapped by the lack of alternatives having invested in haste a far vaster deal than they can retrieve from the sector.

Impacts of Tourism
To consolidate the impact of tourism, we find it crossover into the following three arenas:
On one hand, tourism is said to generate positive impacts by serving as a supportive force for peace-building by making people open to invite and accept varied cultures, fosters pride in their own cultural traditions and helps in creating jobs; while on the other, the socio-cultural impacts of tourism due to direct and indirect relations with tourists and the tourism industry in the host country cannot be denied. Host communities often are the weaker party in the bargain with their guests and service providers, leveraging any influence they might have on them. The impacts arise when tourism brings about changes in value systems and behaviour and thereby threatens indigenous identity, community structures and traditional life styles.
On one hand, tourism has the potential to raise awareness of environmental values and it can serve as a tool to finance protection of nature as the quality of the environment, both natural and man-made, is essential for the growth of tourism; while on the other, tourism's relationship with the environment is complex and involves many activities that can have adverse environmental effects. Many of these impacts are linked with the construction of general infrastructure such as roads and airports, and of tourism facilities, including resorts, hotels, restaurants, shops, golf courses etc. The negative impacts of tourism development can gradually yet systematically destroy the environmental resources and the stakeholders on whom it depends.
On one hand, the tourism industry generates substantial economic benefits to both the host as well as the tourists' home countries. One of the primary motivations for a region to promote itself as a tourism destination is the expected economic improvement it is perceived to bring in; while on the other, tourism does not come without a cost for the countries to bear. Land grabbing and illegal eviction of the natives, prostitution and trafficking, pedophilia and rape, smuggling and drugs, mafia and increase in crime rate are associated costs that tourist destinations are destined to bear-a counter cost that falls ultimately on the government and on the people who pay the taxes. 

At this point, the following lines of a novelist from God’s own country comes to my mind. She said:
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. 
Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. 
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” 
                                                                                                            Arundhati Roy in War Talk
Let the Gods and Goddesses (if any or in absentia) save God’s own country from this illusion-one more ‘ism’-called tourism.

Note: Excerpts from a paper presented at a National Tourism Conference in Kerala

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

First Message To IFSW

'Professionalism'-a buzz word that moves the moment one even dares to think of "Social Work". The moment this word (somehow) kicks in, the market gets filled with ideas, ideologies, principles, values, ethics, theoretical frameworks, practice models, competencies, networking, memberships, associations and so on... 

Talking from the point of view of an Indian Social Worker, its been 80 years since we brought in Social Work as a discipline into our universities-that is 11 years older than our country's independence that we received in 1947-yet, we have only done our bit, as individuals and more collectively as associations that have mushroomed all over India that hawkers memberships at different rates, to cripple the growth of Social Work as a profession rather than boost it in any form.

Think we are all confused. The higher we try to reach to the ones perched on top of these institutions and associations for clarity, the sooner we realize that the older and more confused they are who have learnt mute and pointless babbling as new languages. Often in the academia, we are asked to refer NASW for our code of ethics and every other detail connected therewith; after a point of time, we realize, NASW is so national by its limitation with no space to accommodate others that they leave us with space only to wonder, 'Why patronize them at all?!" Different schools of thought occupy the Indian scenario-perhaps like every other healthy democracy-we have the liberals to the conservative with the moderates in between wondering where to draw the line-like in politics, more so in Social Work. It took many of us a while to understand that Social Work is not (yet) a "professional" course in India (too) as it does not fit into the "professional" requirements other actually professional courses such as medicine, law or its allied courses mandates. Any Deepak, Rani or Chandru can be a Social Worker here unlike the Tom, Dick and Harry there. The associations are as confused as its members; there is neither a council nor a culturally-relevant locally and commonly agreed code of conduct or restrictive/promotive unit to monitor its practice. This as mentioned earlier, after 80 years of its existence. 

International organizations talking to a member of some God-forsaken association in India and feel a right to claim that they have associated with Indian Social Workers are so absolutely wrong. One organization or for that matter a bunch of their pseudo-collectives, DO NOT represent the collective Social Worker community from India. 

Where are we? 
Are other countries with us in this regard? 
What should we do that perhaps our seniors in the field have not done?

Kindly advice...   

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Federation Gives In

After paying the membership amount, after waiting for more than the required time for some action to confirm the membership, after requesting, reminding and even begging, and ending up with still no response-not even for courtesy's sake, finally International Federation of Social Workers responds and gives the membership. (After making me use the only language the world seem to understand these days... 'legal action'). 

Extremely glad that I was able to get an insight into the functioning of the lousiest, clumsiest and most disorganized organization I have ever seen. So now, I am officially a member of an organization that I don't personally care a damn about. Word of advice to my fellow Social Workers: 'Don't make the mistake I did. Stay out of this organization and save some money.'

Monday, February 15, 2016

What Colour Is The Soil In Munnar

A walk across the rusty hanging bridge
to sway from the new to the old.
A magical transformation
from fake to real.
More to revel,
as stories of tea and Munnar wait to be unveiled...
Margaret Bridge, Munnar
What colour is the soil in Munnar?

"What colour is the soil on which tea grows?" my Mother asked as we drove through Munnar, a mountain range converted to a tea estate by the British colonists in India. The rich beauty of the carefully arranged tea trees-row after row and plantation after plantation-overwhelms even the hardest of senses. The crisp, thin air and the clear water below must infact make your heart skip a beat or two. My Mother happens to be more of a British adorer-a rung higher than a sympathizer; perhaps comes with her being a person with a bias-having taken English literature as her academic pursuit.

My Mother had a reason to ask me that question this time; for she was a witness during the times the great whites packed up their stuff to leave the country after 335 glorious years of their ravishing tenure in India. She has always insisted that the Brits have to be thanked for signs like the rail tracks and road ways-laid by them that have fueled economic growth-which if had been done by Indians, thanks to our bureaucracy, redtapism and corruption connected there-with, we never would have managed such a feat. 

This is where we begin to argue; for I see the railway tracks and every other monumental feat left behind by the Brits-the tracks and the cracks-a joint symbolic display of British (ill)governance and East India Company's dirty game on unsuspecting, innocent and a careless crowd-the natives of the land. Every rail track that was laid can be traced from the spot where the Brits found a fancy for something and anything they considered wealth that could be exploited and looted to the nearest port from where it could be boxed and shipped to her majesty's service straight to the white man's shore. All 33 and a half decades of wealth, human lives and innocence-spotted, looted and packed to be shipped-for which we as natives on whose back the dirty empire rode, even considered it our obligation to pay for their stray stay and upkeep while they were here to loot us; we even learnt to wave and say, "Thank you! please..." like a commission-earning Tourist Guide. 

All of a sudden, to hear this question of what colour is the soil in Munnar to come from my mother, made me wonder if she was (finally) beginning to see the substratum buried beneath these beautiful fields that held stories of horror and barbarism waiting to be unearthed to let the ghosts of the air howl their stories to fill the misty mountains... once in a while. Stories the poor Indian labourer might tell of how the Cha’ips on horsebacks would whip the bare Indian backs to force them to work, stories of how families would be stolen, lives would be lost, children would be separated and human dignity suspended to build what the empire wanted, the company demanded and the white man commanded-with an order to prepare the ground to grow tea. Tea-even if it meant tunneling out a whole mountain to plant, pluck, process and pack it to the white man’s wish and supply it along the established spice route to his friends, family and customers back home. What colour could the ground be where lives were caught by the throat, suffocated, frozen and killed-where shouts of violence and cries for help were ignored, unrecorded and unaddressed? What colour could the colour of the soil of Munnar be anything but red? A deep red perhaps… like blood that flows-that boils right now at the very thought of the greatest injustice done to humanity to spread a green carpet of tea over a red carpet of slavery, bondage and blood.  

Today, when one walks past the little town of Munnar amidst its tea estates in plenty, buses with boards in the vernacular (Malayalam) that ply tourists who land for guided tours and to sip their chilled beer in the comforts of a chillier cold, walk past government buildings with name boards in the vernacular (in Malayalam and Tamil too) with hoisted red flags that sway with passive aggression. The aggravates of the tension in the air is smothered by the presence of local commercial establishments like the wayside eateries, taxi and auto-wallas, lodges and hotels that depends solely on the influx of the crowd of tourist. Early in the morning, armouring the heavy chill, a bunch of tourists drip in everyday. They are feast to the eye for the handicraft shop owners and the masseur and masseuse in massage parlors who have mastered the art of squeezing someone (literally) to earn their living. Today every brown man in Munnar owning a commercial establishment waits for a 'Cha'ip' (a white man) or a 'Madaam'may' (a white lady)-as he was taught to call-to earn back every penny they looted. Miles and years to go before that can be done to tally the account. Yet, it moves...

To be continued... 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Can Social Work Be Licensed In India

The Two Requirements to get a Social Work license in the West as I understand (with my limited perspective) are:
1. Formal Social Work Education (A promotive strategy)
2. Test for Licensing (A restrictive strategy)

Though I was worried about the latter, it seems like we have both working in India at present. UGC's NET is considered a test accepted by the Indian Government to test people for academic as well as (now) in non-academic recruitment drives too.

I am sure you would have read the headlines about 'A recent recruitment drive by Indian Oil Corporation that made NET crucial.'
NEWS: "Indian Oil Corporation is recruiting officers in marketing and human resource management. The written test for the selection process will be through University Grant Commission National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET) examination, conducted by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on behalf of the UGC." (Source:

With the two strategies in place and existing already, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel; and with no need for a new system to be formed I really don't realize why there must be a delay in 'licensing' being made compulsory and with immediate effect. There should be comfortably no delay in declaring professionals with MSW and with NET as licensed Social Workers. All we would need after that is a stamping authority to declare the same; that can be worked out signing an MoU with IFSW or any such bodies by making it clear to them about this scenario present within their disposal in India.

Ofcourse there will be objections that can be expected as in any restrictive practice; perhaps people in India know better that passing the NET will not be as easy as passing MSW once this idea is enforced. As for consensus in this regards, it is a fact that those who do not get through the restrictive strategy, will find a way to oppose the existing option and will divulge in the pretext of finding alternatives.

Now since we are used to copying models and systems directly from the West (At times with little or no relevance to our country), if these criteria are the ones we need to make Social Work a licensed professional practice in India, it is only a matter of time that we need to make this a reality by working on it fast and expose IFSW to this option already available and install a stamping authority to further move this cause. Seems as simple as that.

May be after my (ongoing) trial to include Social Work as an optional subject in UPSC, licensing Social Work with the available options must be my next attempt. What say folks?!...

In the mean time, I also need to think:
1. Is a foreign degree in Social Work acceptable for a personnel to be employed in India to practice? When it is not possible the other way around quoting irrelevance and the need to adhere to passing local tests and exams.
2. Is a foreign degree in Social Work acceptable for a personnel to teach in the Indian academia? When it is not possible the other way around quoting irrelevance and doubting our capability.
3. Can a foreigner be allowed to continue to work as a Social Worker in India?! Esp. without the knowledge of the local customs or language (criteria used to test us if we plan to go to a foreign land) and/or without undergoing a security check or signing child/elderly/gender protection policies and/or without a need to adhere to any eligibility criteria put forth as policies esp. Universities?
4. Can foreign interns who come on 'volunteer tourism' be provided tourist visas for their academic pursuits in India when the same possibility is not extended for an India intern?
5. Why is Social Work syllabus offered by different Universities different? Then how can we claim that we are professionally prepared to be the same when the foundations of our syllabuses aren't?!
6. Can those who are trained in a discipline in a University by unqualified personnel (who have not met certain standards in qualifying to be employed like NET, PhD etc.) be accepted as 'trained' professionals? Shouldn't they be disqualified automatically?
7. What must be the penalty for institutions who destroy a profession and student lives by recruiting trained yet unqualified workforce be?