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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Keynote...!


Yesterday I was the speaker of an opening session at a Two day National Conference on Sustainability by Economics, History, Politics and Public Administration Departments of St. Mira’s College for Girls, Pune. The Conference had Anupam Saraph as the Key-note speaker and it couldn’t have been better. Saraph Sir set the standard of the conference very high at the outset by his candid and upfront discourse that touched upon every possible aspect of sustainability and public policy making. Although many of his statements were debatable and would not be seen in good light by armies of ‘India Today’ by and large, it doesn’t deprive any of it for their merit and logical outlook.

The Four Principles our Constitution’s Preamble is based upon – Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – were emphasized by him throughout his speech as well as in his response to the questions from the audience and his not having a AADHAR card himself proved his standpoint and grit for his belief and position! He went on to invite the audience to visit http://speakforme.in tool developed to facilitate and send an email to elected representatives of your constituency about any AADHAR inconveniences and issues, in response to a question about it.

Although the Synopsis of the Key-note would be a good idea, I will not dare to do that for two reasons – I might look like a journalist who uses his reporting liberty to twist the statements and facts of a speaker and secondly, I may not be eloquent enough to do justice to what the speaker said, intended and meant. However I must mention three things here that I thought I learnt, or at least looked at from a different perspective in new light and wish that all the young girls in the audience took it to their heart, for these are the citizens of nation that will decide the fate of this largest democracy of the world that would be youngest of the earth by 2020, statistic says!

Citing the reference of ‘(The New) Confessions of an Economic Hitman’, Saraph Sir presented a critic view of so-called development yet maintained not to look like an anti-development protestor activist! Seemingly an anti-Make-in-India perspective, he managed to further the agenda of protecting the environment from pollution and made a commendable effort to bring out the contradictions in the schemes of Make-in-India vis-à-vis Swachh Bharat.

The theory of sovereignty to Common Purposes like an open market where the traders meet to exchange their commodities in excess reminded me of my all-time favourite movie ‘The Green Beautiful’ and I was enlightened with the meanings of Government and Governance and their expected functions as the facilitator of the Public Interest ONLY and not assuming the role of an Agent of Development as there is no agreed or concrete definition of the concept ‘Development’, it being highly subjective.

The best part was concerning the ‘Growth’. Any natural organism has a specific cycle of life governing its ‘Growth’ and beyond a certain point no organic entity ‘outgrows’, be it a human or a tree! If the cells in a body cross the potential of their growth and start multiplying uncontrollably, it is called Cancer – a terminal disease that is out of reach for even the most advanced diagnostics to be detected at early stage or for any remedial science on the planet to cure completely. That’s the reason a ‘successfully’ treated Cancer patient is termed as Disease-free temporarily, not in the pink of health as before.

If unprecedented and rampant growth of any sector or any factor is promised, it is inviting Cancer – is the warning every conscientious, sensible and sensitive human should mind well and it would be desirable to also bear in mind that everything is a trade and you can get something that you don’t have only by trading something that you have! And that’s where the two fundamental questions I keep on advocating come into the picture – ‘Is it worth it?’ and if yes, ‘At the cost of what?’

With such an ideal opening that any conference would desire, followed by open interaction between the Speaker and the audience, I was little bit nervous to follow the suit. And to add to my nervousness, Murphy’s Law took its toll and despite my preparation as usual to counter any situation that might arise, I had to borrow the college laptop for audio-visual elements in my presentation to be effective. However the embedded movie clips in my presentation refused to play with the flow and had to be played independently by temporarily exiting the PowerPoint show, changing the projection and getting back to resume the show by reversing the sequence. So the principle lesson of the session was, henceforth go for a HDMI cable to connect all the audio-visual interfaces of the laptop to the projector in one go!

I represented ‘Shivaji Trail’ once again and I designed and developed my presentation under the main theme of ‘Historical Legacies – Contexts of Public Policy’ to present Shivaji Trail’s endavor of Fort Restoration with an apt title – ‘Restoring Heritage – Dynamics of Preservation’ and I started with... 

“All the subject themes and topics of the conference are too vast to fit in a single 40 minutes session but that is the format of such conferences nobody could get a concession for and I will try my best to present the topic within that timeframe. Being a Student of Architecture, I have inherited the philosophy of ‘Form follows function’ from my mentors and being a Project Management Professional; I prefer experiential ‘hands-on’ learning and hence would take a pragmatic approach than academic. In simple words, I am not here to argue on who or what’s at fault instead I would present what we have done and how it could be seen from a policy making perspective. I can assure you that in the next 40 minutes you would be introduced to many interesting facts that you would love to ponder and act on later.

Historical Legacies are about places and structures – that are tangible as well as people and cultures – that are intangible. And Public Policy and Governance encompasses almost everything including making of a public policy and its implementation. For the purpose of this session of the conference we will discuss only Forts – particularly forts of Maharashtra with reference to Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as the ‘Historical Legacy’ and our experiments with Fort Restoration drives, followed by a quick overview of CSR Act and its provisions.”

After giving a brief account of Shivaji Trail’s journey and need-based initiatives in progress, CSR perspective was presented in a jiffy and then I described a Sample CSR Project of Heritage Restoration. I concluded my presentation with the words, “These are just few outcomes of Single Phase of the whole Restoration Drive and the DPR will take a holistic perspective of the Economic, Environmental, Political and Social aspects of the entire activity to prove that ‘The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts!’”

Mukund Utpat, my old pal accompanied me for this conference and caught the action on camera and I would prefer not to thank him out of sheer formality but I must admit that I feel indebted for the evening that we had together with another good old friend Sanjay Lahoti to discuss a new project for Shivaji Trail and if you watch this place regularly, you will find the details about it eventually! By the way, it is not the Durg Pooja on Sunday, 25 February 2018 that is set to make history once again...

At the end of the day, although a content feeling of missions accomplished and milestones achieved kept lingering in our minds, we missed the man-of-the-mission Milind in our midst as he was outstation, TIM as he is not with us anymore and the realization and responsibility of answering the call of the captain left us thinking over the ‘Good Night’!

Stay tuned... It’s really a long Way to go!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Democratization...!





"The future lies with the democratization of energy. Every household a proud producer as well as consumer of energy, that's the democracy of energy." - Amar Inamdar

In complete agreement with the baseline of this idea, I always believed that any being that consumes, can contribute and this basic democratic idea is reflected in all my work here and there. For example, see this recent submission for 'Clean Energy Lab for Not-Profits' incubation program contest.

The Clean Energy Lab is India’s first incubation program to support high potential ideas for creating research and evidence based large scale policy impact in clean energy invited exceptional ideas to create policy action on clean energy in India. I was one of the participants who presented their ‘Clean Energy Idea’ and my idea based on ‘basics’ and ‘democratization’ supported by ‘innovation’ and ‘smart data’ couldn’t make it to the final 5, though; here's the Hypothesis I presented as preamble of my idea - A Hypothesis of Clean Energy Lab Fellow

Way to go...!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Republic...!


Indian National Congress declared India’s Purna Swaraj – Complete Self-rule Independent of the British Empire – on 26th January 1930. British Empire lowered its flag and the Tri-colour rose on the Red Fort on 15th Aug 1947 declaring the Independent status of India as a Free Nation. India adopted the Democratic Republic type of Government that needed a framework to go by and hence the Constitution of India replaced the Government of India Act 1935 as fundamental governing document. The Election Commission of India, an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India was formed on 25th January 1950 that is celebrated as National Voters Day since 2011.

‘Republic’ means the supreme power of the people living in the country and only PUBLIC [we the people of the nation] has rights to elect their representatives as political leader to lead the country in right direction. India became that Republic country exactly 20 years after the declaration of Purna Swaraj and hence the date 26th January was chosen to adopt the Constitution with regard and reverence to Purna Swaraj! In the conclusion of his Making of India's Constitution, Justice Khanna writes -

"If the Indian constitution is our heritage bequeathed to us by our founding fathers, no less are we, the people of India, the trustees and custodians of the values which pulsate within its provisions! A constitution is not a parchment of paper; it is a way of life and has to be lived up to. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis; its only keepers are the people."

At the juncture of 8th National Voter’s Day and 69th Republic Day, India as a nation has achieved many milestones, first and foremost being continuing to be the One United Nation with all the cultural, regional, religious and other diversities, setting new records in technological advancements by launching the most advanced SLV that carried record number of satellites, fast approaching Bullet train and Hyper-loop in the pipeline, having a strong economy with a steady growth rate and prosperity with the Sensex crossing 36,000 pts – a new landmark and rising to the 3rd position in terms of GDP on the world map!
Equity

All the way through this journey of 7 decades India witnessed all the permutation combinations of political parties that promised Good Governance. Many enactments of the respective governments facilitated the Democracy to find its space to develop in the transformation from an Oppressor Ruled Regime to a Home Elected Governance. At this point when the Democracy is expected to be matured beyond the phases of crawling toddler and limping adolescence and with the promise of being the youngest country of the world by 2020, we the people – particularly youth – of India are supposed to take a stance for a long run that the world wants us to give our best to and continue progressively!

While celebrating all our triumphs, we cannot rest on our laurels as with those laurels we have also gathered some poisonous thorns in our cape and we need to remove those thorns that have the potential to tear apart our cape... sooner or later. The biggest of the thorn that is growing with all the development efforts is of Disparity – Educational, Economical and Social. Equity and Equality are different in their very nature and although ‘Equality’ might seem to offer Equal Opportunity it cannot be considered as ‘Equity’, let alone Fairness. Disparity needs to be removed by enabling and empowering the elements of society that are malnourished, deprived, underprivileged and weak, based on their socio-economical status and not on any Caste-Creed-Color-Culture criteria. And such empowerment is possible only with Education – quality education for life and skill training for livelihood – to everybody without any discrimination of socio-economic status.

Gender equality, nurturing a conscious mind, offering it every possible opportunity to develop, respecting each other’s culture, point of view and perspective, tolerance with empathy, conscious and sensible freedom of expression and commitment to contributing in Nation Building with honesty and integrity are the fundamental attributes of real Democracy, beyond the four pillars of democracy. It is our collective responsibility to keep all four pillars of democracy stand tall, strong and in place!

On this occasion, let us imbibe the words of Justice Khanna in letter and spirit and resolve to wear the patriotism on our sleeves 365 days, 24x7 and refrain from waking up on 2 or 3 occasions of the year, flood each other with so called ‘Nationalist’ messages and look dumb to the world on a Smartphone! Only then we would be defying the remarks like ‘India is not a poor country, India is a rich country, but people of India are poor...!’ If you get what it means, get back to your work and give it your best!

Jai Hind!

Way to go... literally!


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A New Day...!


Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. Demille Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Golden Globes and her 9 Minute Speech of Appreciation would find a place in history with the remarkable words of 'Time is up!' and '…a new day is on the horizon!', just like Martin Luther King's famous speech 'I have a dream...' delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. Both these speeches are demonstration of what to say, how to say and why to say in front of what audience you want to say and convey a strong message without sounding antagonistic, judgmental, loud or wicked! Many of the Presumed Leaders and Celebrated Speakers of today could take a hint, I guess...! Here's the full transcript of Oprah's Speech...

"Thank you, Reese. In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother's house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history:" The winner is Sidney Poitier." Up to the stage came the most elegant man I ever remembered. His tie was white, his skin was black—and he was being celebrated. I'd never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people's houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney's performance in Lilies of the Field: "Amen, amen, amen, amen."

In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor—it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for A.M. Chicago. Saw me on the show and said to Steven Spielberg, she's Sophia in 'The Color Purple.' Gayle who's been a friend and Stedman who's been my rock.

I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We know the press is under siege these days. We also know it's the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To—to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.

But it's not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It's one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics and they're our soldiers in the military.

And there's someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she'd attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn't an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.

Their time is up. And I just hope—I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks' heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it's here with every woman who chooses to say, "Me too." And every man—every man who chooses to listen.

In my career, what I've always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. I've interviewed and portrayed people who've withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'Me too' again."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Zillion Dollar Question...!


In the era of exponential growth that is rampant in every walk of life right from Automobile to Infrastructure to Information Technology, every concept and idea is exploited out of proportion and with this 'Larger-than-life' protocol being the new normal, questions and concerns are also aggravated... 'Million' has become a seemingly small proportion hence the 'Zillion' Dollar Question...

Is GDP relevant any longer...?

Shouldn't we replace it with, at least HDI, if not IHDI or GNH...?

All the thought leaders of the World need to reflect on it as it is already Very Very High Time and High Alert as well...

(Not a) way to go...!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Growth...!


On 15 August 1945 Japan agreed to unconditional surrender to United Kingdom and United State in the Second World War after atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that left Japan completely wrecked with its industry infrastructure entirely destroyed. Exactly after 2 years India earned its independence getting rid of the British rule governed by the United Kingdom and surviving a fate of partition that broke the spirit and backbone of its unity and integrity. Although completely different in many terms including geography, resources, culture and history; both these nations were more or less in a similar situation, India having an advantage of being Free and rich with Natural resources and basic infrastructure!

After 70 years the picture today is startling for India, if not completely pathetic, when Japan has become one of the most prestigious Brand of the Modern world by securing the position of World’s Third Largest Economy after United States and China. India claims the same position in terms of PPP but that ranking has many aspects, including but not limited to population, that need serious interrogation and profound reflection! So today let’s try to understand very fundamental things leaving the jargons to the experts and economists.

Nation building starts with two basic elements – Setting Relevant Objectives and Optimum utilization of available resources to achieve those objectives. ‘Growth’ or ‘Development’ could not be ‘Objectives’ in themselves as these terms are explicitly relative and implicitly subjective! One of the acceptable and balanced definition of ‘Growth’ could be ‘Developing the intrinsic ability to meet the needs (not wants!) of present and making provisions for common future (not own!) by any entity’, right from an individual to a nation. This definition in its word and spirit dismisses the theory of exponential growth as it is promised and projected for deceitful purposes of the proposers. Instead, it upholds the sanity of considering growth as the means and not the purpose while assumes development to be sustainable as well as inclusive. This definition and its intent also sets the right perspective to look at statistics by discarding higher GDP or bullish Stock Market as irrational and irrelevant when it comes to analysis of Economic performance – both these do not qualify to serve as Progress Indicators for a simple reason – rise in number of patients in a hospital also adds to GDP and stock market could be manipulated by any shrewd mind with strategic planning and analysis… remember Harshad Mehta?

Secondly, consumption based rise in the economy could not be considered as prosperous development unless the growing in numbers could be put under the investment column. Having more orphanages or old-age homes could be the need of the hour (seriously?) or it might add up to the numbers, but it certainly is not a Development Indicator; on the contrary it speaks volumes about the deteriorating social health and well-being – something that needs a serious attention and structural reform, not celebration. If few affluent members of the society are over-consuming, only because they can afford to, it is not a sign of holistic development by any measure or standard, as they could do so at the cost of masses continued to be deprived of their basic necessities and fundamental rights that their government owes to them. This Social and Economical disparity is critical to the Nation building as it has the potential of a sabotage when things go out of proportion and any anti-social element finds the opportunity to trigger the unrest!

Now, for some statistics to support the theory – Service sector has major contribution to the GDP with its four prominent players – Automobile, Construction, Finance and IT – all urban-centered domains with their stakeholders mainly in the Metros, Tier II and few Tier III cities of India. The entire urban population of India is about 30% which suggests that the population in the Metros and Tier II cities combined wouldn’t be more than 10%. The other 90% of the population is not benefiting from the growth in these sectors because, either it is completely ignorant of the status quo or it is being ‘maintained’ like that on purpose, some probing in the matter would reveal the secret, may be…!

About 70% of India resides in rural areas and about same percentage of its population is engaged in Agro-based occupation or industry. Agriculture in India remains the biggest unorganized sector by and large and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises industry is close second with a whopping 90% share in manufacturing sector but majority of it being unorganized. Mere percentages of these sectors are sufficient to exhibit their livelihood and employability potential in India. Despite the facts, figures and prospects, both these sectors have suffered severe negligence as far as planning, policy and projections are considered. All the technological innovations are useless unless they could facilitate development of crucial sectors. A serious analysis with a profound approach to these sectors could be a game-changer!

Education in general and meaningful education in particular, and health in general and maternal health in particular, are two major concerns India need to address on a war-footing – not firefighting – level. About half the women population having inadequate levels in majority of the health parameters is not only concerning but seriously alarming as the physical and mental health of future generations would be directly affected by the condition of mothers that would conceive and rear those babies. Proper nutrition of the newborns is the governing factor of the early childhood development and it is not only desirable but essential for the life-long effect it has on the holistic development of the children. Multi-specialty hospitals in the urban areas would contribute to the GDP, no doubt, but Public Health needs to be revitalized for the enormous population it serves; sound health is a basic necessity and not a luxury for every citizen of the country, no matter what type of Government a nation has.

Finally, various global reports have maintained it that India is the youngest country of this planet based on the average age of the working population and it would be even younger by 2020! Great news! We could be happy with this prediction, we could consider ourselves lucky for being the youngest country, we can feel proud of it OR we can ask ourselves a candid question – 'What are we going to do with all that youth we would have in 2020?' Make them either organize, play or watch T20 Cricket matches or we have something in store for them that they will take pride in doing and cherish the memories of their youth for years to come...?

Well, only WE should (and could) find the answer to it, the World is watching and the clock is ticking…

Way (2 years, to be precise!) to go…!