NUGGETS of LIFE: Balance, another name of life

The art of balance

Things come and go! There is day and there is night! Change is inevitable. In life you go through many phases and there is nothing static. There are moments that you want to hold on to and then there are others which you want to let go. One has to learn walking the thin line of balance with élan and ease. For this you need to know the act of balancing and then there you are – ready to go those miles with a sunshine attitude!

Every culture – be it Indian, American, Balinese, Arabian or any other, strikes a chord at one common but fundamental element called balance, because without this it wouldn’t have thrived. The theory of karma is also based on this. To describe it in a very short way, it can be said that when a person is born, his life cycle is based around the famous proverb – ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’! His ultimate effort should be to achieve balance in his life, only then can he attain salvation. For this you need to learn about certain factors which have a profound role in achieving this state of bliss. These are as follow:

• Flexibility – Without flexibility or adjustment in other words, neither are you successful in your personal life nor in professional. All the fingers of our hand are not equal and without either of them, you loose your strength to perform any function. You should be content with yourself and your surroundings. If you do not like something, accept the fact that you do not like it but then move on. Do not expect everything to be perfect! One should not crib or think much about the past that is gone, neither think of the future that he certainly knows not. Life is about living the present (the very moment that you live!)

• Faith – Things do not always work out the way you want. There are many hardships and obstacles in life. Face them with a brave heart and you will survive! Never loose faith in yourself. Similarly, never loose hope. It is only then that the whole universe binds itself to achieve what you want. The law of attraction that Rhonde Bryne has pointed out in her book ‘The Secret’ actually works!

• Respect – All of us have two eyes, two hands, two legs and a heart but we may differ in our genes, habits, emotional bonding. What I want to point out here is that although we might not be able to love everyone but we can surely respect everyone because at some point we all are same. This not only brings balance in your life but also peace and harmony in the world.

• Yoga – This 5ooo years old form of meditation is truly a wonder. It balances mind, body and soul. Yoga inculcates positive energy in life. Not only does it make you physically fit but also a more calm and happy person. Serenity gets reflected on your face. It is a proven fact that an hour spent practicing yoga can teach you the deeper intricacies of life.

If you understand these key factors, then you understand the act of balancing life. Excess of everything is bad. Therefore, learn to balance! We have one life so make it worth living.

Published on EzineArticles.com on 30.7.2012

OPINION: Are the new Farm Laws solely Punjab’s Problem?

Covid-19 hinterland digest: Lockdown gives Punjab respite from drug menace  | Business Standard News
New farm laws are not solely Punjab’s problem,
only the wind began from Punjab.

The new farm laws have created a major stir and have escalated the farmer protest to a historic pan India People’s Movement. The government claims that the three farm laws are an attempt to invite private players to generate healthy competition along with the mandi system (APMC), and is not a takeover by any corporate house. The centre government’s think tank has been opining vociferously in media that the socio-economic backdrop for MSP has changed with better times in the country and so the policies need a change. Punjab and Haryana has been pin pointed for being complacent to the comfort of MSP and for not reinventing its agriculture in spite of its depleting water table. A new narrative is being fabricated that it is solely Punjab’s problem.

What is Punjab’s problem?

Punjab is certainly aware of water table depletion for a long time now. When India was deficit in grain and foreign exchange to buy from foreign markets Punjab and Haryana were used for the Green Revolution and guaranteed a minimum support price for staples like wheat and rice to usher the country into an era of food abundance. It is because of this that higher fertilizers and pesticides manufactured by private companies made inroads. No alternative agrarian model was provided. The constant rise in input costs have now led Punjab into an economic cul de sac. For a long time the farming community was looking for a bail out of this predicament with the help of centre, by way of MSP on other high value crops ‘in a meaningful manner’ or by subsidies that could help them diversify to food processing. But that never happened. Punjab was already trying to sustain itself and deal with the repercussions of the economic policies of Green Revolution when Modi government chose to bring in these Farm laws. Reinventing agriculture at this point in time is out of question. This raises yet another crucial question: Why did Modi government choose to bring about such drastic changes exactly now? With no new solid alternative model and no transitional phase, the Farm Laws have been bulldozed on the states and certainly Punjab is worst affected since it is a state that primarily depends on agriculture for its revenue.

But then how did one state’s agricultural issue gain pan India momentum? Clearly because the new laws are not solely Punjab’s problem. Here is a deeper analysis:

Liberty vs. Security

Indian farmers clearly understand that individual liberty that the centre government is promising them with the enforcement of farm laws comes by jeopardizing security of farming community. In fact, do the farmers really have the liberty of choosing which private company they want to sell their crop to? Or will the private player choose which farmers crop it wants? The fact is there is no choice but only a façade of choice. It is for this reason the farmers have been asking for the safety net of MSP as a legal provision and not because they are addicted to the ‘allure of MSP’. According to an analysis by ‘The Wire’, farmers across 11 major agricultural states have been denied Rs. 1,900 Crore due to sales below MSP in last two months alone. Moreover, if Indian agriculture is not subsidized it will never be able to compete in the international market.

Powerful tool of Crony Capitalism

The three laws serve as a dangerous tool of crony capitalism which can give rise to heavy hand and monopolistic behavior. Section 13 of The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act (2020) clearly states: “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Central Government, or any officer of the Central Government or the State Government or any other person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or of any rules or orders made thereunder.” This is simply outrageous. There is no legal recourse for Indian farmers. In fact, these farm laws together snatch away the basic constitutional rights of Indian citizens empowering the clout of government and big business houses to flourish. Certainly, the Indian farmers have understood the intentions of the current regime. Therefore, these new laws are not solely Punjab’s problem.

Crisis of Confidence

There has been a crisis of confidence in the government and its intentions. Never before did India view autonomous and independent agencies like CBI with skepticism. There was already a simmering distrust in all segments of society because of Modi government’s disastrous decision of demonetization, past rhetoric in Kashmir, CAA protests, frenzy of changing city and institution names, love jihad laws, mob lynching, extreme dip in economy – all of which has now been brought to a boil with these three Farm Laws being framed in a rush, behind the façade of a pandemic. Hence, a pan India movement where the farmers have been joined by various labour, trade and transport unions as well because the sense of fairness has been lost.

To encapsulate, these farm laws are not solely Punjab’s problem. Only the wind began from Punjab.

OPINION: The Global Environment Fiasco

Global Environment Fiasco

“Earth provides ENOUGH to satisfy every mans need but, NOT every mans greed!”

The warm and majestic green landscapes, the glory of the snow crowned mountains, the pristine maiden rivers and lakes… (wait let’s fast forward)… is a matter of history.

Does that not give you goose bumps?

The clarion bells keep ringing over the degradation of various flora and fauna, and now the scenario is only graver. The very topography of our land has been altered, or rather plundered!

Being an adventure seeker, I have been visiting various places especially across the Himalayas but it is a sad sight now. The beautiful pockets of nature are being replaced by plastic bottles, litter, dams, rapid construction, luxurious hotels and resorts – making these areas dull and grey! The irony of the situation is that the luxury and modernization that we are trying to achieve from such rampant dissection of these ecologically sensitive areas, is absolutely menacing.

There is an increase in the occurrence of natural calamities and higher likelihood of pandemics. Man has been reckless in the past decade – ignoring guidelines, exploiting natural resources and taking full advantage of the political bureaucratic nexus! It has aggravated the conjectured dire consequences. Development is taking place at the price of the destruction of nature. The spoilage of the Dal Lake causing the locals to abandon their means of livelihood, the soil erosion due to flooding of the Brahmaputra, loss of life and property due to floods almost every few years across various states!

Not only within the country but all across the globe, there is a drastic change in the climate due to devious human activity, thereby altering ecosystems callously. The tsunami in Thailand, the hurricane Katrina and the Sandy Storm in the United States are some examples. There is increase in population and decrease in natural resources. Today deforestation and global warming have reached to such a level that there is a constant environment alarm beeping, via natural disasters.

The World Bank report on climate change warns that a warmer world will trap millions in poverty. Underdeveloped nations will majorly bear the brunt. A scientific report commissioned by the World Bank named “Turn down the Heat”, looks at the possible impact of global warming on the most vulnerable regions of the world. According to it there will be unusual summer heat extremes and water availability in Pakistan and Nepal will be too low for self sufficiency in food production by 2050. Most coastal reefs are projected to be extinct, with the loss of associated fisheries and coastal protection. There would be loss of 41-51% of unique plant species in South Africa and Namibia. The report also projects that 33% of the Kolkata metropolitan area is projected to be exposed to flooding of more than 25 cm in the event of extreme rainfall pattern by 2050.

It is high time to protect our environment.  The power and beauty of the natural world cannot be tamed – man is a fool to do so! There is much said and written about environment catastrophe but it is time to pull up the socks. Little things of common sense can go a long way in making a difference. For instance, using buckets and pails for bathing is better than using showers, turn off your vehicle’s engine at red light, reducing red meat consumption or vegan dietary habits, reusing and recycling, using eco-friendly products or reducing the flow of water when washing something can help in restoring the lost environmental balance. Another interesting concept to save our environment is using creativity as a tool to fix the problem. Great creativity can make something out of nothing, a monotonous idea into a great novelty!  We need to think differently and out of the box, thereby attracting and involving the human mind to do various things to save our environment.

 Apart from this, green societies should be given impetus. These are an association of persons, business and organizations that create local and global support systems developing sustainable resource based communities. Grooming green societies is grooming culture of optimum utilization. Last but not the least, both our central and state governments should not merely provide financial help but also devise an adequate plan and policy. A workable solution is the need of the hour because – TO MOULD THE HISTORY OF OUR FUTURE, WE NEED TO MOULD THE ENVIRONMENT OF OUR PRESENT HARMONIOUSLY!

OPINION: Are We a Generation of Uneducated Literates?

A generation of uneducated literates who are now in a crisis of confidence

Human education opens the mind. If humankind has ever unanimously agreed on something then it is the power of education (no wonder when White supremacist, Nazi’s or any authoritarian regime wanted to come to power they first hacked and altered the education systems!).

The scenario today is that the world in 21st century has the most educated population and hence the most comfortable lifestyles that our predecessors could never imagine. Thanks, to the technological revolution and evolution, advanced degrees, deeper understanding of psychology and biotechnology. Over the last 65 years the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years, from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015. In spite of this, we have a parallel degradation at a new level in our society. Every day brutal rape cases, sophisticated artificial intelligence attacks, ecological disruption (with fires and floods breaking out too often) clearly point in that direction.

To generalize the entire world population as uneducated literates would not be right. But the deluge of disinformation and the growing instability around the world – be it politics, economics, environment, physical and mental health, makes it imperative to address this turbulence by tracing it back to its root cause which is the human education system.  

So, where are we going wrong? How are we a generation of uneducated literates?

Education vs. Literacy

Did you know Osama Bin Laden was a qualified civil engineer? And the famous American murderer Gary Gilmore had an IQ test score of 133? Yes that is true, but the more disturbing truth is that we as a generation fail to distinguish between education and literacy. Literacy is our ability to read and write. On the other hand education encompasses thinking, rationality, wisdom, ethics, sensibility and formation of good character. A degree in any field today is nothing more than the human mental faculties being engineered to read and write in a certain way. However, education is connoted with formal education more often than not. This blurs the line between the two which should have been kept distinct. Therefore, one can graduate as an ‘evil- genius’ but not ‘illiterate-moralist’. It is because the basis for having good grades is literacy and not education in its right sense, or even in accordance with its etymological meaning. And this has precisely become one of the founding reasons for the chaos in the 21st century world, as A.R. Upadhya puts, all literates are not educated and all illiterates are not uneducated.

Educated Literate or Prejudiced Literate

A literate person without a degree today is considered ‘uneducated’ even if the individual is an ethical, cultured, sophisticated, self reliant, well read and dignified being. While, a doctor who creates a ruckus by breaking traffic rules, a public officer who doesn’t mind a little pee on the roadside, or a professor who has no sense of basic etiquettes is considered ‘educated’. Are they educated literates in any way? Majority are not educated literates but prejudiced literates. Our notion of education has reduced its scope to mere literacy and learnedness, completely doing away with the concept of ethics and morality. It is all about flashing your degrees and universities. In fact, it is worth mentioning here that the glory that an educational institute gains because of the learning or brave achievement of some of the individuals (because of their own independent efforts) is trivialized because of the commercial mandates of these institutes that distribute a slice of that glory to all the lesser ones who have enough money to enter these institutes. This prejudiced behavior is highly problematic now than ever before because the 21st century educational institutes have produced too many individuals with shallow character and views that are now equipped with advanced knowledge. This approach becomes cradle to terrorism, red tapism and many other organized crimes. We need to redefine not just the education structure but more importantly our behavior and attitude to curb it.

Disoriented Literates

One out of five sex offenders are university graduates amounting to 34.4%, and there are only 6% of them who have no academic background according to a recent survey. Who is really disoriented then – the uneducated or the educated? Education as we have come to use it now cannot be related to sanity. Never before did any generation so easily believe in conspiracy theories and was disillusioned to this extent (despite the fact that 89% of world population is literate now). Even today, a well educated refined army man or magistrate would have a mindset of having a line of daughters before a son pops out. We say women are at power with men but the number of female infanticide cases still has not reduced. What to do with such refinement and education then?

An alternate prism for why we still prefer to be uneducated literates is that it is easy to sit on a mountain than a needle, and morality is like a needle, it pricks you every time you go wrong. Hence our generation found it easier to ignore it. But where has it led us now. Behold the circus of the world then – where peaceful protests are ended with automatic gun fires in Nigeria, where American president Trump tells its citizens to drink disinfectant, when any political disagreement is considered anti national in India, when the royal house of Thailand thinks it is good time to regain authority by crushing democracy, thousands of Muslims are slaughtered in China, massive protests take over Brazil, a feminist artist is imprisoned for six years on trivial charges in Russia –  highlighting only a few.

We are certainly a generation of uneducated literates who are in a crisis of confidence now. Good luck!

OPINION: Why Farmers Opposition To The New Agricultural Reforms Is Justified

Punjab farmer unions to corner Cong govt
Farmers are unhappy with the new agriculture bills

After the CAA protests, now the centre government is facing yet another major backlash. The new farm ordinances promulgated in June this year, have not gone well with the farming community, especially of Punjab and Haryana. The reforms in the agricultural markets include deregulation of farm foods from the Essential Commodities Act (ECA). Farmers are also allowed to sell their produce to the government regulated market yards (mandis) or Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), as well as to private firms outside this set up. They have also been allowed to enter into farming contracts. The government says that these bills have rid the farmers from the shackles of middleman, increased the profit margins for them, increased their bargaining power and hence a freer trade. However, the farming community refuses to accept these as pro farmer legislations and they have strong arguments to make which should not be overlooked.

The farming community believes that with the coming of private players it will be difficult to hold them accountable for any malpractice or harassment. The eventual phasing out of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) will take away the farmers safety net and the farmers already have many issues to tackle with from depleting water levels, rising input costs for farming and debts. Least government involvement in the entire process of crop procurement will snub the small and marginal farmer decreasing their bargaining power instead of increasing it. The parallel mandi system that has been allowed to be carried out along with the entry of agribusiness firms will become redundant over a period of time – handing the baton finally to the big corporations. It is to be pointed out here that although the government claims that it is trying to help the farmers by ridding them of the monopoly of APMCs, the farming community has never been entirely against the APMCs work ecosystem in the first place. Many farmers are hugely dependent on artiya system (government licensed commission agents which gives them credibility with the farmers) for loans and smooth functioning of their daily lives. Even the banks could not provide as healthy an alternative to the farmers. Secondly and more importantly if the government could assure the provision of MSP in the legislation itself, they would not have faced such protests. The problem is not the private player but the lack of legal binding of MSP in the new bill.                                 

Here is a deeper analysis.

Small Threat v/s Big Threat

It cannot be denied that traditionally farmers have faced some problems at the hands of APMCs. However, the farmers have a collective strength as the government is answerable to them locally and nationally, which makes sure that APMCs never overreach themselves. Hence, it is a smaller threat to their progress. On the other hand, with big corporations coming in and no government involvement, the farmers will have no backup. A mutual agreement can only take place or rather hold its place if all the parties involved can exercise their strengths equally. With no strong protective measures from their democratically elected government, the farmers will definitely have a bigger threat from these corporations who have the financial power and the digital behavioral data of millions of people. Till date the American government could not completely round off Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for his mega company’s data malpractices that have impacted daily life and electoral decisions of people around the globe. How will the simple farmers ever round up private players and big corporations in case of any injustice?

One size does not fit all

Punjab and Haryana are states where the agitation against the new reforms is the most severe since they have higher contribution in filling the food security pool of India. Therefore the legislation needs to be flexible in its application. 34 % of wheat and 22% of rice is contributed to the nation by Punjab alone. The Punjab government too collects handsome mandi tax which is also outside the GST. This tax helps create and maintain robust infrastructure like roads connecting rural areas, mandi infrastructures, etc. It is used for the welfare of people and hence should not be done away with. By removing the fee on trade and excluding the mandis from the definition of trade areas the government is clearly incentivizing the traders. Earlier the traders came to a defined and well allocated area for trade with the farmers. Now a marginal farmer is expected to carry around huge quantities of produce directly to various bases of traders. This new provision is unviable for the farmers of Punjab and Haryana. This predicament is not as strongly applicable to other states as they have a weak APMC structure. In Bihar not even 1% of targeted wheat procurement happened at MSP in this past rabi season which ended in April this year. The overall contribution of the state in terms of produce is also lesser than Punjab and Haryana. Therefore, entry of a private player might be a good alternative in this state. Yet, without government back up or intervention no trader or private company will give a decent price for the hard labour of a farmer even in these states. The main point to be taken here is that one size or one approach does not fit all.

Why rush it through?

The APMC structure came to fore legally in 1956 in the face of famine in order to check unlawful trading. The system evolved to accommodate the changed circumstances of farmers over the years. Now when it has become an integral part of many state economies, where is the need to suddenly overturn it without a proper dialogue with the stakeholders? Why ram it through with these bills in the already troubling time of coronavirus pandemic? There was no need to issue an ordinance. Normally these ordinances are issued only as an emergency law. These have to be converted into legislation as soon as the parliament reconvenes. More importantly it needs to be highlighted that any law related to agriculture, agriculture processing and marketing is not even a subject of Union list. It is constitutionally a State subject.

The government is free to introduce reforms for the betterment of its people. Precisely, it is for this very reason the elected representatives have been sent to parliament by the people. But firstly, where is the emergency? To do it behind the façade of a pandemic is not the right way ethically and morally. Secondly, does it hint at something else too? Internationally, a new business climate is trying to emerge from the moribund economy due to the ongoing pandemic. There is a visible monopolistic behavior on the rise, with supersized deals taking place between various corporate giants who have strong access to capital market. The recent deals to boost Jio ecosystem is one such case in point. The accelerated digital transformation for these bigger corporations in turn primarily means enhanced “surveillance capitalism” making the governments across the globe more in sync with such deals since they can become the biggest buyers of this surveillance data, giving a more potential rise to ‘Cambridge Analytica’ like case. In times like this, when a new dangerous world wave is emerging do we really want private players to come in.

Even if it is just hysteria, why risk crushing the Anndatta by passing such ordinances in such a hush which might weaken the economy of states, and who knows…might also become entry point for a new East India company!

OPINION: A Full Circle View of Post Covid-19 World

We are too close to the details to see the bigger picture, while the large volume of prevalent information becomes merely reporatge.

The coronavirus pandemic is still unfolding but one thing is sure that there will be dramatic and strategic shifts while the world walks through the dark valley. But is this simply a new wave – an upgradation, or are we in the eye of the storm? An abyss of concentrated power which will eventually create a furore in all the areas of human existence from business world to geopolitics, social life to the virtual world – each inseparably linked to the other…

The Universe is always expanding and collapsing. And then from a collapse it re – expands. This is the process of creation and history stands witness to this fact that the world pattern similarly has always been that of ebb and flow. There are peaceful times and then there are times when the pressure of events sets in. We are too close to the details to see the bigger picture, while the large volume of prevalent information becomes merely reportage. In the face of such events, the course of history changes and coronavirus pandemic is one such event.

The trends likely to rise in the post covid-19 world are much discernable now, in the second half of 2020. It is not merely a new wave leading to the next level, where Khyber knife makes way for sophisticated weaponry. There is a new business climate trying to emerge from a moribund economy. The businesses have accelerated their digital transformation but they are far from overcoming all their problems. The onset of monopolistic behavior with supersized deals taking place, thereby concentrating bigger corporates who already have had a better access to the capital market, clearly forecast a much tougher time for smaller businesses to come out of the freeze. An accelerated digital transformation for these bigger corporations in turn primarily means enhanced “surveillance capitalism”, making the  states more in sync with such deals since it would be in their interest– giving a more potential rise to ‘Cambridge Analytica’ like cases.

The governments across the globe have already begun their shift to self sufficiency and wider digital reach amongst its citizens. Coronavirus pandemic has further led to increased use of digital tools of organic marketing, whereby the global population is also more receptive to such approach than ever before.  With state initiatives tapping social media platforms for outreach, there is now higher risk for general population to not being able to decipher the targeted content contextualized into their lives through such platforms. Now, with globalization being threatened and weak global entities leading to political compromises, there is less gainful competition and lesser choices, and higher threat to social and mental well being.

It is to be pointed out here that in this scenario a new trend is also subtly taking birth. It cannot be ignored that globalization is threatened but it is also certain that it cannot come to an abrupt halt. On the other hand nations have begun developing notable individual cultures and started their self sufficient projections but it is a long way to go before this complete self sufficiency comes into existence for all nations, if at all. But somewhere in between this wide disparity in projections and the reality, a consolidation of political and economic power has begun, making use of this fall out. A trend giving birth to oligopolies and endangering democracies.

If this becomes the eye of the storm, to point out metaphorically – the coriolis effect would further bellow the ‘epidemic of despair’. There is already much less discussion on mental health despite a spike in number of suicides in this pandemic. Unlike the business world, no model or strategy is being devised to curb this angle of the crisis. If this is left unattended it can lead to higher discontent, rage, unrest and depression leading to faulty decision making capability at individual level; and as a collective society. Even if the world comes out with a vaccine by the end of this year and there is a respite in the panic and anxiety due to covid-19, will mass vaccination be possible? Especially for the under privileged in any country – with World Health Organization’s “Solidarity Call to Action” not being supported by majority governments and pharmaceutical companies across the globe – it is long way to go.

At this time when the repercussions of the pandemic are still emerging, there can be no conclusions but only questions. There is much needed to be read in between the lines, than what the eyes can read. There will certainly be higher incidents of social and economic partiality and polarizations with a serious mental health crisis looming above.

 A safety buffer zone should be created by smaller businesses by coming together forming a pool which is not just fiscal in nature but also source of creativity and innovation to preserve their long term growth. It is not how quickly new technologies are adopted but how dedicated you are in maintaining the customer loyalty. As the world is going through the current storm, it is important to be aware and resist any autocratic surveillance empowered by artificial intelligence in the virtual world. And last but not the least, if the sense of fear arising from your current circumstances is imprisoning the mind – remember to first survive and then thrive, because future is always a notion and not reality that is created partly by circumstances and partly by faith in yourself. And faith, can move mountains as they say!