Infographic, Politics, Technology

Can Indian Optimism create newer opportunities

Its been nearly 18 months since PM Modi took the reigns of a then floundering economy spearheaded by ex-PM Manmohan Singh. Despite several shortcomings which are structural in nature related to India, one can definitely visibly see the efforts being made by the Government in various industries. One big example of the same is the PM himself visiting innovative companies of the world like Facebook, Tesla Motors etc during his recent visit to the USA. At some level, transforming India is a massive challenge given these staggering graphs. How do you actually shape the lives of 1 bn people at varied stages of their life and lead them to prosperity? How do you drive 300 mn+ people out of relative poverty and give them hope and vision for a better future? How do you remove the habit of people who have been used to live on Government doles and subsidies and get them to work more diligently? These are problems that are massive in nature but I think, the way the Government is approaching them is quite interesting in itself.

The Tech approach to solve problems – At some level, the mobile resurgence has come at the best time for the Government. PM Modi and his Mann ki Baat has been such a hit that opponents in Bihar actually asked EC for a ban on this program. With Mobile and internet becoming more popularly used by the day, PM Modi’s social media presence has actually helped in propogating their policies and programs faster than any Government has done before. Twitter and Facebook have become massive channels for the Democracy which is good to note.

However, this is just the start. To create momentum is one thing , to sustain it through thick and thin is another. China’s relative slowdown/recession has put focus on India for now as a developing nation, but this won’t last more than 6 months in my opinion. Can India sustain the optimism beyond 18 months well into 2017? That would be the true test of the policy decisions taken by the present Government.

Whats your view – is the current optimism about India truly meaningful? Write below!

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Reflections, Strategy

Three Tips for your Self Zeitgeist 2013

Yep, its that time of the year when Zeitgeist stories take centre stage again. The time before holidays start and the time when a lot of people start looking forward to the year that will soon start with a lot of hope!

Its at these times that Zeitgeist type of stories work the best. Whats a Zeitgeist in the first place?

Zeitgeist – The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

Here are the top Zeitgeist stories I have found so far which would help fashion a Self Zeitgeist –

1. Facebook Stories – Found Facebook stories to be a compelling read. You can view the most inspiring Facebook stories here or check your own ‘Year-in-Review’ on Facebook by typing the following link on your browser – https://www.facebook.com/yearinreview . Found the Year in Review very compelling because you feel like you are going through what you did in the year all at once.

Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist on Facebook Stories

2. Slideshare Zeitgeist – Perhaps the most shareable & readable content in the world – both text and visual is found on Slideshare today. So, its quite natural that Slideshare Zeitgeist would be awesome too. Check the same out below –

SlideShare Zeitgeist 2013 from SlideShare ( Click on this link if you cannot view the Presentation in the email newsletter)

3. Self Zeitgeist

– I feel creating a Zeitgeist for oneself at these times would be quite awesome too. It will help you take a self evaluation on what could be done better and try and make efforts to better that. For example, one thing I realised while thinking back is there is a necessity for me to be consistent in my efforts towards a certain goal. I had, still have a habit to go with the flow, but that really doesn’t help. At some point of time, consistency / persistence is what may lead to a long term reward.

What is your Zeitgeist? Please share in the comments section!

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Justice-verma-committee
Politics, Public Issues

Justice Verma Committee – Criminal Law about Women Safety

The earlier course of events about Women Safety and security, particularly in the aftermath of the heinous gang-rape case in New Delhi has caused more than a kerfuffle in the Government machinery, thankfully. The Government has formed a three member committee to form a law and this committee will be headed by Justice Verma.

The objective of this committee is to to the following in case of “aggravated” sexual assault

(a) Provide for speedier justice

(b) Review Law for enhanced punishment

Justice-verma-committee

Advertisement-in-newspapers-about-Justice-Verma-Committee

The notice encourages people to give their suggestions about this. Its really great that the Government and Judiciary is willing to improve itself. Whats a bit disturbing is that it takes such massive protests to make the judicial machinery take notice, but anyways, at least efforts have begun in the right direction.

We at Strat.in thought that we can act as the messenger in this case. We have created a form about this below – whereby we shall collate all responses and send them over to Justice Verma on January 4, 2013.

Please fill in your requests and send them back to us. We would be glad to send them back to Justice Verma committee.

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Business, Public Issues

Has India become a rape-prone nation?

The spate of cases of rape have been on a rise in the last few months. So, is the threat real, that we are moving towards becoming a rape-prone country where women will feel afraid to go out and become independent.

Some digging of the facts and analysis show some different trends.

Untitled

This list by Nation Master does not show India even among the Top 50, not something which we should be proud of but quite a relief.

There can be two major reasons for this anamoly, either most of the cases of rape in india are not reported to police (which could be a big possibility) or is it our media (media shows what people like to hear) which is hyping it up. In both the scenarios it does not bode well for our society.

There might be a third reason as well, that our society had never encountered even these many rape cases earlier and hence the sudden sprite of these have made us uneasy. Focusing further on this, I am treading into a danger zone but has our society changed so much?

1. The Western culture has had a wrong influence on our society, some men do not consider rape as big a crime as before. This is not a completely convincing justification, since the punishment for rape has remained same as before though the exposure to western culture has increased in the recent years.

2. The punishment is not a deterrent enough to reduce the rape cases. This might be true to a certain extent since countries like Saudi Arabia which have severe punishment for such crimes has seen very low cases of rape.

3. The low female to male ratio. This might sound absurd but the socialogists saw this coming, since ours is a country which is at the bottom of female to male ratio leading to lower marriages/partners. (Source: World FactBook) But if this is the case, it will be long before this ratio will return to normal.

Untitled2

4. Indian legal system is not able to bring the existing criminals to justice, which in turn makes the other would-be criminals believe that they can escape the law.

We can give more probable reasons, but the reality is such crimes are still happening and very little is being done to stop/reduce them happening in future. We, as a nation need to do something better so that ours does not become a rape-prone nation.

 

“Rapes (per capita) by country”, European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control International Statistics on Crime and Justice, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.NationMaster.com/red/graph/cri_rap_percap-crime-rapes-per-capita&b_map=1

Male/female ratio by country: Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html

 

 

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narendra-modi-1
Business, Leadership, Politics

Modi, the management guru

I first heard of Narendra Modi, like many others, post the unfortunate Godhra incident and the subsequent riots that shook the collective conscience of the nation. Before that, I must admit, I had never heard of him. In fact, in those days, the only two CMs of any state I knew of was the West Bengal CM and the Tripura CM – Bengal because of obvious reasons and Tripura – because the person concerned had a long reign at the top. And I knew vaguely about the Delhi CM, and knew that “one of the two” were CMs in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh

In those days, I, like most young men of my state, were enamored of so-called “leftist” ideals, and found Modi to be a hate figure. Over cups of coffee, reading about his interviews, his “methods” in various magazines, I had a strong dislike for him. Then I got admitted to an engineering college, and started concentrating on my studies. NaMo gradually slipped out of my mind, almost _ though some reports of the Best Bakery case, the Sardar Sarovar Dam protest, the “ban” on Fanaa just about kept him alive in my mind

The next time I heard of him was when a professor in the college where I was doing my MBA came out with a report on how NaMo had used masks of himself to spread his message and keep his persona alive and kicking. We had a long discussion over cups of coffee in the canteen over this strategy, and the parallel it had with the world of marketing, specifically, brand positioning

It is at this point of time that I began to take interest in the management guru (not the politician, not the stylish gentleman). Here was a man who did not have much formal education, yet symbolized and stood for many of the principles and theories taught in long lectures and to which many people owe their PhDs

I have picked here 5 aspects based on 5 incidents of NarendraBhai

1. The masks before 2007 Elections and Swami Vivekananda in 2012

It’s a oft repeated statement in marketing that if you keep reminding a customer something over and over again, chances are – he will not forget to buy the product. Here the “product” was an idea – “Brand Modi” or rather, the implicit message “Vote for Modi”. Now there is a risk in this – “what if the idea is oversold? What if the customer, here the voter, gets angered and refuses to vote?”

The answer to this is simple. Again, using a marketing parlance, if we consider the 4Ps of marketing – first P would be the “product”. If the “product” is value for money, “positioning” will bring a smile on the face, rather than irritate the customer. An example of a bad “product” over positioned and angering the customers, in the world of politics, would be, without going into great details, celebration of birth and death anniversaries of “certain leaders” in all leading newspapers, and crediting anything under the sun to them. That does not apply to NaMo. He has delivered over the last 5 years, hence the “brand recall mechanism” created through masks worked to a great positive effect (http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/modi-masks-arehottest-items-in-gujarat%60s-poll-mart/307407/)

In the past few months, NaMo has made Swami Vivekananda as his own. It is said that he is a big fan of the 19th Century Great and has spent a significant time in Ramkrishna Mission in Calcutta, which was established by Swami-ji himself. (it is rumored the respect towards Swami-ji also comes from sharing the same first name – Vivekananda’s real name was “Narendra Nath Datta”). It’s also a matter of luck for NaMo that Swami-Ji’s 150th Birth anniversary falls in 2012, election year in Gujarat. And NaMo made great use of this as a political weapon – tweets, blog posts, youth fairs, yatras, even cricket kits given away as rpizes – everything had a brand association with the great Ascetic. NaMo projected him as a symbol of great Hindu pride (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/narendra-modi-begins-month-long-vivekanand-yuva-vikas-yatra/1/216855.html). Here the management lesson seems tobe a clever association with a well known “brand” (personality in this case), who has great brand potential, yet has not been used by anyone else for some reason

2. Focus on women and children

This is not an attempt to be sexist, but the ladies generally make more rational voters. They vote based on issues which affect their livelihood, budget and less on matters of caste or religion. Modi understood this perfectly well. Right from day1, his focus has been more towards the women and the first time voters. He was faced with a serious challenge as far as women’s literacy and health and nutrition issues were concerned. And he took on these issues head on – he introduced several schemes for girls – “kanya kelavani”, giving away money earned from selling gifts given to him as charity to organizations fighting female foeticide etc (http://zeenews.india.com/news/states/auction-of-modi-s-gift-articles-gets-good-response_608102.html ) . The message was clear and simple – “Ladies’, I care for you, something very basic which many leaders in this country don’t”. This simple message found a lot of takers. Today he has a dedicated vote bank. He followed a simple management principle – choose your target wisely and kept on persisting with his promotion

3. Modi, the darling of the corporates

It’s an old fact in the history of politics that businessmen and politicians are the best of friends. The reason is not hard to fathom. Each one of them feed off the other. The politician needs funds; the businessmen need the right business environment. Modi was clever enough to realize this fact very early. He had realized how the incidents of 2002 had damaged his reputation in certain sections of society. He had to find an alternate way to build a reputation. And he chose the path of development. Development would require funds, and for most of his tenure he had had to deal with a hostile government at the center. So he thought of an alternate way – business

The people he governed are ones with good business acumen, he reasoned. So why not give them an ideal opportunity to carry out business? There is the story of how when the Tatas decided to pull out of Singur, Modi immediately send an SMS to Ratan Tata welcoming him to Gujarat, and a dejected Ratan Tata didn’t have too many alternatives but to invest in Gujarat (http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_i-just-spent-one-rupee-to-bring-nano-to-gujarat-narendra-modi_1391096 ). Uninterrupted supply of power, almost unheard of in other states of India barring a couple in the North-East, broadband connectivity in almost every village of Gujarat means both large and small scale industry has thrived as well as benefits of mdern technology could be used by the people

He has made business easier to be carried out, and this has been an invitation for investors, from not just in India, but from other parts of the world as well to flock to invest in Gujarat. The “Vibrant Gujarat” summits” have seen MoUs worth lakhs of crores being signed, and a significant portion implemented as well, which has brought huge investments to the state. Corruption has almost been eliminated, setting up business is easier than many parts of India, and the infrastructure (road networks, ports etc) compares to best in the world. Reduced costs and red tape has made investing attractive, bringing down unemployment significantly. This has had domino effects in terms of healthcare, sanitation etc and education. People have more money to buy better agricultural products, thus bringing up agricultural productivity. Higher returns mean they have more money to send their children to school; arrange for more nutritious food and make better sanitary arrangements. Thus Gujarat has entered into a virtuous cycle of higher income -> more taxes -> better quality of life. A simple lesson of finding what your customers (in this case the voters) need the most and provide that service the best turned out to be a trump card for Modi

4. Use of technology + social media and great back-up and PR-team

Modi-speech-with-3D-technology

Narendra Modi has 1 million followers on twitter (https://twitter.com/narendramodi ). Now, that is no mean feat. Leaders far bigger to him as far as constitutional authority is concerned, heads of state, etc have far fewer followers. It is here he scores big. He understood the value of technology and social media, something which would appeal to the youth and place from where he can take direct feedback from. It also helped him spread his message quicker and cheaper. He has taken potshots at his political rivals, showcased his methods and results and has connected to a segment of the population that is rarely given too much attention – the aspirational middle class. His use of 3-D hologram technology turned out to be a huge hit wherein he could be heard and seen, as if live in a number of places at one time (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-12-10/news/35726564_1_keshubhai-patel-sanjiv-bhatt-gujarat-parivartan-party ), as did his Google+ hangout hosted by actor Ajay Devgn(http://ibnlive.in.com/videos/287292/modi-answers-netizens-on-google-plus-hangout.html )

NaMo has a great back-up team and an efficient PR-team, which not just keeps posted about him, helps spread his message on the social media, but also does great research for him. For example, when he went to China earlier this year, he had his visiting cards made in Mandarin, besides of course, having done solid research on the business environment of the country (http://www.sunday-guardian.com/news/modi-woos-china-in-mandarin ). The Management lesson obviously is  have a good back-up team and to be well prepared when visiting a potential client (here he was wooing Chinese investors to Gujarat, and created the simple analogy of being the “two fastest growing economies in Asia”

5. Turning adversity into advantage

Narendra Modi has inherited a state ravaged by an earthquake and jolted by communal riots. Red-tapism, nepotism, poor infrastructure almost engulfed the entrepreneurial spirit of his subjects. However, in 10 years, he not just turned it around for the state, but for his own image itself – his lack of immediate family members barring his ageing mother and estranged mother (rumors of a wife were later found to be unfounded) kept him away from own personal gains, aided by his RSS-background discipline. He has cleverly molded his own image with that of Gujarat. Any insult to him was turned into an insult to “6 crore Gujarati”, his own portrayal as a “CM = Common Man” and “servant of the masses”, evoking of “Gujarati asmita” or pride has made him a man of the masses he lorded over. And the opposition – Congress, has fallen time and again into cleverly laid traps. In 2007, Sonia Gandhi called him “maut ka saudagar” or “Merchant of Death”, and he immediately used this to his advantage by claiming this was an insult to the state. Needless to say, he won by a thumping margin (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/no-2002-no–maut-ka-saudagar–sonia-cong-tread-carefully-on–muslim–issues/1042507/ ). Even this time around, during the campaign he was called a monkey by the Gujarat Congress Chief ( http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/gujarat-congress-compares-narendra-modi-to-a-monkey-bjp-files-complaint-290404  ), which he immediately turned into “Lord Hanuman out to serve Lord Ram – the people of Gujarat” argument (http://www.firstpost.com/politics/modi-in-3d-yes-i-am-hanumans-monkey-ganpatis-mouse-527686.html ). Here the management lesson is “take stones thrown at you and turn them into milestones”

It is difficult to predict whether Narendra Modi will win Gujarat, leave alone to go the national scene as a possible PM-candidate. But history will remember him as one of the longest serving CM of Gujarat. And his legacy of trying to bring all round development as well as his methods of electioneering, bringing in industries and taking care of deprived sections of the society will remain for long, a lesson in management for a lot of people

It can be argued none of this matters as far as voting is concerned, people vote a host of issues; even if he wins in Gujarat, he won’t be able to replicate it elsewhere and such claims. Well, all these can be argued, statements and counter-statements put in, but what matters is that these are some of the traits that very few leaders in India has shown. It is of little wonder then, that he will have several spokespersons who will speak on his behalf, not out of fear or greed, but out of love (http://in.news.yahoo.com/aishwarya-rai-lauds-gujarat-rapid-progress-141105303.html )

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men-women-salary-comparison
Human Resources, Public Issues

Do Women earn less than men in India ?

According to many recent surveys, it was found that Women in India earn upto 26-30% lower than men on average. However, is the comparison done in the right setting? Is the comparison a fair assessment of the roles, responsibilities etc which are assigned or taken up by men/women at their respective roles? Strat.in delves deeper into this issue. Check this video about this issue in the US context –

According to the Professor, women earn lower than men because of factors such as

(a) Career choices they make ( prefering humanities, arts over science )

(b) Full time v/s Part time work

(c) Men are more career focussed and make lateral moves within the industry in the hunt of a better pay package

In India there is more to this -There are significant cultural differences about how Men and Women approach their careers. From the family, there is constant pressure on men to get into the market and find a better living for their family. Women face such pressures less often. In a significant percentage of families in India, women are discouraged to continue work post marriage. This is something that still continues in a majority of Indian cities as well, that too Metro /Tier 1 cities.

So, clearly comparing median wages is not the right approach in these matters. What is perhaps a better approach is to go in a Geography/Industry/Vertical approach and find out the salaries for those particular levels. Perhaps that maybe a better approach to throw more light on this sensitive, yet controversial issue.

Is there Salary based discrimination? Looking at factors such as skill levels etc, particularly in the IT companies, cases of salary discrimination are low, if not non existent. There may be stray cases, but colleagues in the HR departments would be in a better position to comment about this.

Salary is not equal to Productivity – Further, there is one big component that everyone misses out – Salary levels and ‘Productivity levels’ are different. By Productivity levels, one measures how productive a man or a woman is to a house. Women take up significantly larger percentage of responsibilities towards household work, cleanliness, kids, kitchen etc. All this, if were measured in parallel to salary in monetary terms, perhaps the median value that women bring to the household may grow higher than men. There is a case in point for a research to be done about this, related to Indians.

What is your view on this? Is this kind of  ‘salary’ only comparison a fair way to compare in the corporate workplace? Let us know your views!

(Note that this is a controversial issue, and hence, opinions are individual and should be respected as such. Undue dismissive/abusive/derogatory comments directed at individuals will be deleted )

 

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Planning, Public Issues

New Engineering Entrance Exam: Has anything being achieved?

In Physics, there is a very interesting concept of ‘distance’ and ‘displacement’. Distance refers to the measurement of length covered by a person while moving. Displacement refers to the final difference between the initial and final position of a person. So when a man moves in a complete circle, he has moved some distance but his displacement is zero. Something similar can be said about our HRD Ministry and its new pattern for engineering entrance.

When this topic (change in the pattern of engineering entrance exam) first came in public limelight, there were loads of speculations as to how the new pattern would affect the main stakeholders (students, teachers, schools and engineering institutions). The ministry defined following objectives that it wished to achieve through the new pattern – 1) Reducing the stress on students 2) Incorporating the Class XII boards marks in the entrance system and thereby increasing the importance of school-going 3) Discouraging the business of coaching centres thriving in the country. Assuming that these objectives are worth achieving (which in itself is a big assumption), it’s time public evaluates if the new entrance pattern is a step in right direction to help the ministry achieve the aforementioned goals

First objective relates to stress.  Ministry said that the two exams would be fused into 1 single exam. Seeing the current pattern (and assuming that I can count correctly) there are still going to be two exams. And the surprise is that both of them are going to be on the same day. That means if a person is, for some unfortunate reason, not able to give test on that day, he/she would have to wait for an year. Unlike the present system, there would be no second chance in the proposed system. I believe that any rational person would take this step as one that increases stress rather than reducing it.

Then comes the perennial topic of discussion among science students, JEE enthusiasts, schools and the government: the importance of school education vis-à-vis subject matter of engineering entrance exams. The government has been successful to pay a deaf ear to the concerns regarding the inequalities and drawbacks in the prevalent system of board exams and somehow incorporate Class XIIth marks into the entrance system. But does that mean that there would be a steep increase in attendance? Not necessarily. The level of board exams is very low and there are enough books in the market to help students prepare for that. Many people will say that only those who go to school will get good marks in practicals. But the truth is that schools care a lot more for overall results. Hence, 90-95% of the students would still get good marks in practicals. So, the second objective looks as distant as it used to look before.

And now we come to the so-called eternal villains of the society – coaching centers. I would not comment anything on whether coaching centers are good or bad. That is for another article. What we need to see is whether the new pattern is adversely affecting the business of coaching centres or not? And the answer is: Definetely NOT. Coaching centers are already teaching physics, chemistry and maths. Now, they would supplement the engineering course material with some material for board exams. There is even a possibility that some coaching centres hire teachers for teaching the other two subjects: English and one among Economics / Physical Education / Computers etc. The point is, the new system does not present any considerable difficulty to the working model of coaching centres. So, even the last objective looks as near as horizon.

So, if the HRD Ministry looks nowhere near to achieve what it has envisaged, then what’s the point of bringing the new pattern? And at the time of writing this, IITs, other engineering institutions and alumni bodies are making plans to drag the issue to courts. Apart from feeling disgust for the interfering nature of HRD Ministry, I also feel sorry for the engineering aspirants. Especially those, who would appear in 2013 and are still uncertain about the entrance system.  I could only advise them to study hard for JEE topics and draw up a plan to get some good (if not too high) marks in Class XII board exams. But what advice for our HRD Ministry that has messed up once again? Seeing that the 2014 elections may be pre-poned, I could say only one thing – “Vinashkaaale vipreet buddhi” (during the time of our destruction, we go against our intelligence)

 

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Public Issues, Technology

Datasexual – The new ultra cool trend in India?

Just yesterday, I ran into a friend working with a major private bank in the country. As usual, he was cribbing about long work hours and the general disdain with which everyone is treated these days. But then something very unusual happened – for every person he was narrating to me about – he opened her cell phone and started showing Facebook profiles of these people! And then I asked him – why the urge to show Facebook profiles of all these people – the retort was – Aren’t you interested in knowing these people? Doesn’t this data about people make it more interesting?

My Answer really doesn’t matter, but matters is that so many people in India are carrying these silly smart phones in their pockets that have made data display so simple and second nature to human life. The modern urban male is not a metrosexual, rather he is a datasexual. Walk across any road on a crowded street, look at the tables across a crowded CCD on a Friday evening, run into a AC bus on a weekday morning – you would see people constantly transferring data, gossip, photos and visuals ! Indeed the addiction towards datasexuality has just started in India and is spreading fast!

It all started with the infographic, didn’t it?

The ubiquitous (now ubiquitous, I should add) pictorial image with a lot of data is possibly among the most shared items on the internet – after small kittens and lousy jokes obviously! However, that infographic got people to know one thing, people love data and different ways in which data is represented. And the rise of the datasexual started with that!

Foursquare – So little users, so much noise!

Foursquare doesn’t have much traction in India in terms of daily app usage (compared to international visits anyways) But the amount of usage by these datasexuals is pretty high in this case. And that is why Foursquare and Facebook location sharing is a lifeline of these so called datasexuals!

The big question – will they go mainstream ?

The question goes to the readers – will this trend of data obsession go mainstream? Respond to this in the comments section!

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Human Resources, Planning, Public Issues, Reflections, Strategy

The Value Of A Human Life

It was utterly shocking to read of Friday’s tragedy in Bangalore when a young 25yr old woman lost her life during a mock fire drill. The incident was captured live on camera and was repeatedly flashed across news channels. Its the loss of a young life in the most callous of circumstances that shows the quality of our systems and practices. Most of you folks reading this blog are probably around the same age as this girl. Or may be you have brothers or sisters of the same age. Think about it. Feel for this girl…and her family.

The accident could not have been more freakish.

The fire police expected the employees of the building to use ropes and enact an escape in what would have been a real fire with blazing fumes. Unfortunately, the rope snapped and gave way, presenting a horrifying sight of the woman flying down to her grave.
Indian news channels and newspapers carried the news on Friday. On Saturday the news was reduced to a corner section with a headline that the chief of the fire police admitted there was a lapse and that there was no standard procedure for such drills. Today news channels are not even carrying the story. And local newspapers may forget about it at the end of tomorrow.
It can be argued that this was an accident.
But there are may questions being raised: Why were there no safety nets? Why were the employees asked to use ropes and climb down? How come no-one thought of the consequences of the rope snapping up? How was the rope being suspended? Why didnt the police have a training officer to help women with the task of climbing down considering that even many men cannot easily do it?
But all of these questions ultimately hinge on the one big question: Why is there no respect for human life in India?
Our country does not value human life. Our governments, our system, our administrations do not value human life. Yes we value our families, our friends and brethren. But it stops there. The death of a nameless face hardly moves us. Which is why we saw on television the administrator who had a ‘canned’ answer ready when reporters asked about compensation for the victim’s family – the company would take care of the compensation from their end. And government will provide compensation based on the investigation.
That was all there was to it.
What if this was the death of a celebrity.
How would we treat it? Yes, I agree that a celebrity would bring out a lot of emotion and coverage across the country and even have massive investigation agencies lined out. But does an ordinary citizen deserve any less?
This is not the first such instance where our nation has shown how much it values a life. And we all know it. But we dont remember because we often attribute these incidents to nameless faces that we dont relate to.
This is not the same when you look at countries such as USA or those in Europe.
Entire buildings are shut down if a single person was affected due to a freakish accident. Laws are changed to avoid such events from occuring again.The affected victims are fully represented in trial courts, and ordinary citizens are empowered to sue any power of authority: right from the railway station where the accident took place to the mayor of the city who is ultimately answerable. The leadership cringes in agony at the death of a fellow human. Authorities visit the families of the victim and personally share the grief of the family.
It is in these times that the true value of a human life is appreciated – because its not just about how we deal with the loss of our loved ones. That is always paramount. But sometimes, a society is characterized by how we react to the loss of the loved ones of others.
Its only so much that we can do in the aftermath of such an accident. No one can bring back the life of the nameless 25 yr old girl who has frozen in our minds as helplessly flying down to her death because of the incompetence of the fire personnel.
However, whether we really value human life or not will be seen in the context of how we respond to this tragedy.
There have to be some very clear action steps/changes in mindset that I think we as a society can take on:
1. Exhaustive investigation
The authorities must thoroughly investigate what went wrong and how this accident was caused. The findings must be well documented and made public. More than making it public, all relevant departments of the fire police  as well as other agencies must be made aware of how and why this incident happened. The goal should be to ensure that such incidents do not happen again. We CANNOT allow for the odd thought that “sometimes these events happen”- NO.
2. Process! Process! Process!
We have to infuse in our work culture the absolute mandate to follow the process that is documented and is in place. We all have those bouts of complacency where we take short-cuts because of our gargantuan confidence that “nothing can go wrong today”. More often than not we get through with this. But on that one odd day when something can go wrong, it can be very very fatal. A lot of people get away with driving rashly on the road, or driving after drinking, or texting while they drive, or selling/buying adulterated food products, or smoking cigarettes knowing that is injurious to health. A lot of people play with their ethics by paying bribes to make their way ahead, or forging documents to forge ahead (pun intended). Yeah, mostly nothing happens. But sooner or later, the indiscipline or lack of ethics catches up – and when it does, it can be really really bad.
3. Contingency Plans
We need to bring upon a culture of factoring in contingency plans in our aspects of work. Its probably grossly exaggerating to label this as contingency: but surely, the planners of the mock drill should have had safety options and back up plans for any part of the drill that could have gone wrong. This is not just for the fire department, but for all of us. Think about your fields of work: You may be writing a computer program that could alter the lives of millions who claim their insurance from a company, or you could be designing the combustion engine of the next generation sports utility vehicle. Every step that we take must be fool proof. There is no greater joy in being able to impact the lives of people through our work. But we need to make sure that while we work towards the happy path, we are also ensuring that the consumers/customers/beneficiaries of our products have a way to redeem themselves should anything go wrong. Because the essence of life is that – things do go wrong.
At the core of all of this is the realisation we should lay a premium on the value of every single human life.
This is the least that, nameless faces like us, can do by way of a tribute to 25 yr old girl who died on Friday.
Thanks for reading
S Rao
Note: The picture shown above is that of the tree of life. It was found on the internet. No copyright infringement is intended.
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Planning, Public Issues

Why tamper with good things?

A recent news article in Hindustan Times stated that IITs have acceded to the demand of HRD Ministry of merging IIT-JEE with AIEEE to have one single engineering entrance exam for the whole country from 2013. The speculations are rife that the new system will have equal weightage for marks of Class XIIth boards and marks scored in engineering entrance exam. The news has created a furore in the engineering community and with good reason.

The first question is the merger of exams to have one single exam. The logic given by the HRD Ministry is that currently students have to give 3-5 entrance exams and that puts undue stress on them. The truth, obviously, is quite the opposite. Multiple exams provide more opportunities. So, if somebody has an unlucky day on the day of IIT-JEE, he/she can do well in AIEEE and get admission in a good college. With the new system, the students would be under extra pressure to perform because the next opportunity would come after an year.

The second issue is that of quality of the paper. IIT-JEE is much more intense and difficult than AIEEE paper. As one of the IIT-Directors have mentioned that many elements of JEE would be retained, one can expect the paper to be of a decent quality. It is difficult to comment on this issue till the format of the exam is officially announced.

The third and the most weird thing is introduction of Board’s results with an unusually high weightage (50%). It means that IIT-JEE and class XIIth board exams will be considered as equal. This is beyond logic. Consider this – while 1000+ students all over the country score 100/100 in maths paper of 12th boards, only few are able to score above 85% in the maths paper of IIT-JEE. I sincerely hope that this is just a speculation and the actual weightage of boards exam is not more than 15-20%.

It is high time that HRD Ministry leaves IITs alone and do better things. Their hasteful implementation of OBC quota and increase of seats has already caused various problems to existing IITs. All these actions may badly dent the brand of IITs which is highly dependent on the quality of the incoming students. Well, let’s wait for the formal announcement and see what surprises will be thrown at us.

 

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