Thursday, August 23, 2012

Five Star Healthcare

For Whom & At What Cost?

Whereas the medical fraternity in the country is going all out to woo the rich Western tourists, offering “state-of-the-art” world class equipment and expertise using minimally invasive techniques—there are still many Indians who have to make do without even the basic health services

By Neeraj Mahajan

When it comes to delivery of healthcare services, India has been living on the verge of a paradox. Whereas on one side the country has the best of doctors and facilities for heart surgery, neurosurgery, joint replacement --there are not many people who can afford it. The result is appalling disparity between the wealthy, who can afford expensive, quality care, and the poor, whose access to health care is spotty or simply nonexistent.

Though the government manages a vast network of massive hospitals, very few government-run hospitals are known for any quality work.

India trains the highest number of doctors in the world—almost twice the number in USA which trains only 15,000 a year. Even this is soon going to increase from 32,000 to over 50,000-60,000. We train the largest number of nurses and medical technicians. And have the largest number of USFDA-approved drug manufacturing units outside the US. Ideally all this should have been sufficient to create the foundation for an extraordinary healthcare delivery system but the irony is that the people do not have cash to pay for it.

Even as income levels have risen, cost of healthcare has steeply spiraled upwards. The result is that a majority of the masses still cannot afford good quality healthcare. The question is “What percentage of people can afford it and how many people have access to it?”

Approximately two fifths of hospital inpatients have to borrow money or sell assets to finance the treatment of their near and dear ones. And a quarter of farmers and poor people are driven below the poverty line to fund their medical care.

At this stage three things need to be focused … one -- diseases are getting highly mobile. Two-in today’s shrinking and mobile - global village - nothing – not even disease is a country or persons personal problem.  A new infection may start from the slums of Calcutta in the morning and but could affect people in New Delhi or New York by the evening and become a nightmare for Canada or China by the weekend.    

And last but not the least there is no such thing as amir aadmi ki bimari, garib aadmi ki bimari (rich man’s disease or poor man’s disease). No matter how clean you may keep your home, how many times you may wash your hands with the best disinfectant available in the market or visit the most expensive doctor—a disease or virus does not necessarily differentiate between the rich or the poor or come visiting after checking the person’s social status or address.

This obviously means that even after getting the immunizations shots—we all are as vulnerable to death and disease if our surroundings are not clean. Our homes may be clean but the vectors of the disease can breed in the slums and jhuggi jhompri clusters. And even if the maid servant who comes to our house is infected … disease can enter our homes. This obviously means that even though we have done everything to keep ourselves disease free, we still cannot be totally immune from the risk of catching the infection till the last man on the street from the carpenter, barber to the begger on the street corner too is disease free.

“No system anywhere in the world, healthcare or otherwise can afford to ignore the needs of the people for whom it is designed. Patients can wait but disease…pain & suffering doesn’t…” says Sanjay Vishwakarma who works for a multinational company. “Just like justice delayed is justice denied, healthcare delayed is as good as opportunities lost as nothing damaged in the body can be made to work better than the original. Even human body’s spare parts are not easily available…” he adds.

Almost 100 years after the first heart surgery was performed only 8% of the world’s population can afford a heart surgery. India requires around 2.5 million heart surgeries a year, yet all the heart hospitals in India put together do only around 80,000 surgeries a year.

The reason for the rise in cost is -- more technology. Twenty years ago if somebody had chest pain, very few centers were doing angioplasty and very few operations were done. Today we operate upon anything that can move. And before the operation there are 25 different tests we perform, each costing Rs 5,000-10,000. This increases the safety of the operation, but increases the price.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics India has a national average of only 45 doctors and 8.9 beds for every 100,000 patients. India ranks 127 out of the 177 countries in the Human Development Index. A huge chunk of the cost of healthcare is accounted for by drugs and medicines. According to the Data from the National Sample Survey over 12 per cent of household non-food consumption expenditure goes into paying for healthcare. About 82% of the healthcare expenditure comes as ‘out of pocket payments’ by the people making the Indian public health system grossly inadequate and under-funded.

Inequality in access to healthcare is one reason why India contributes more deaths than any other country to the global figure of 500,000 women and girls dying from pregnancy, childbirth or unsafe abortion each year. India is responsible for a quarter of these maternal deaths, which are preventable. One in every 70 Indian girls die during pregnancy, childbirth or unsafe abortion. Routine emergency obstetric care procedures, such as blood transfusions and Caesarean sections, are far beyond the reach of many poor women.

Uttar Pradesh one of the poorest states in India has 583 fewer community health centers as against 1,097 required by Indian public health standards. One third of these centers have an obstetrician or gynecologist, while about 45 percent do not have funds to operate even a single ambulance. The ratio of hospital beds to population in rural areas is fifteen times lower than that for urban areas. The ratio of doctors to population in rural areas is almost six times lower than that in the urban population.

The most peripheral and most vital unit of India’s public health infrastructure is a primary health centre (PHC). In a recent survey it was noticed that only 38% of all PHCs have the essential manpower and only 31% have all the essential supplies.

The Infant Mortality Rate in the poorest 20% of the population is 2.5 times higher than that in the richest 20% of the population. In other words, an infant born in a poor family is two and half times more likely to die in infancy, than an infant in a better off family. A child in the ‘Low standard of living’ economic group is almost four times more likely to die in childhood than a child in the ‘High standard of living’ group. Female child is 1.5 times more likely to die before reaching her fifth birthday as compared to a male child.

To fill in this void many drug companies and big businesses have begun to dominate the private health sector, with five-star hospitals providing services which "only foreigners and the richest Indians can afford". These are largely unregulated, with no standardisation of quality or costs.

The growth of private healthcare sector has skewed the balance towards urban-centric tertiary health services with profitability overriding equality. As a result of this the number of people who could not seek medical care because of lack of money has increased significantly. The proportion of people unable to afford basic healthcare has doubled in last decade.

In the absence of an effective regulatory authority over the private healthcare sector the quality of medical care is constantly deteriorating. Powerful medical lobbies prevent government from formulating effective legislation or enforcing the existing ones.

A recent World Bank report acknowledges the facts that doctors over-prescribe drugs, recommend unnecessary investigations and treatment and fail to provide appropriate information for patients even in private healthcare sector. The same report also states the relation between quality and price that exists in the private healthcare system. The services offered at a very high price are excellent but are unaffordable for a common man.

At the crossroads of Peace

Glimpses of the situation in Kashmir through the eyes of women

By Neeraj Mahajan

Without any doubt, men take the most active part and bear the brunt of any conflict situation but imagine the plight of the women – they leave behind? What about the struggles of these largely uneducated women, without any prior work experience who have to overnight start earning to bring up the children? Besides mourning their dead or missing husbands or sons and struggling to rebuild their homes and lives, these women have to cope with mental trauma and economic hardships.

It would not be wrong to say that these women, irrespective of their loyalty are caught between two guns - that of terrorists and troops and pay the heaviest price ranging from rape or molestation to torture or losing their loved ones.

While for some men – death may be the end of life…but for the women they leave behind….its the life after the death that’s most torturous. Why Kashmir—a single woman… that too a good looking, young widow without any male member to protect her may be subjected to varying forms of sexual violence from teasing, passing of comments, obscene gestures and molestation—anywhere in India ?  

Even if just for argument sake, we ignore the external threats, most of these Kashmiri women are most vulnerable not outside, but inside their own homes. Without even stepping out of their homes they have to face a lot from the suspicion of their own families to so called distant relative who suddenly crop up from the blue to get their ‘share’ in the property or compensation. Without an earning member in the family, most of these women have no option but to go out and work, but the moment they step out of the home the family members are the first to brand them as women of 'bad character'.  This pain is not something which is easy to digest, more so when it gets added to the stigma of widowhood – a largely Hindu phenomenon, which has come to haunt the Muslim women as well, in Kashmir.  As the levels of domestic violence has gone up sharply in the state in the last decade or so, the women of Kashmir-- Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Ladakhi, finding it extremely difficult to decide who is a friend or foe.

Today, a large numbers of women in Kashmir can be identified as 'half widows' (women whose husbands are assumed dead simply because there is no proof to show where they actually are), widows, mothers who have lost their sons, or those whose daughters have been raped, young women who dare not step out of the house, women who have been pushed out of employment by the fear and uncertainty created by conflict, and those who are suffering from medical and psychological conditions related to emotional stress and trauma.

Tears roll down her cheeks as thirty- eight year old Gulshan Ara, a widow from Trehgam in Kupwara district narrates the experiences she had to undergo after her husbands death in 1991. Hers is a story of poverty, pain and hunger—with six children and absolutely nothing to feed them and no relative willing to support the family. As a result Gulshan was forced to do menial jobs in the neighboring houses but even then could not make a sustainable earning. There were times when she also worked as a casual laborer without even getting double figure amount at the end of the day and as such she and her six children had to go to bed with a belly full of water just to satisfy the hunger.  

Faced with the option of survival and its economic consequences, remarriage is the only option left for most widows…But that too has its side effects as there are several difficult decisions to make regarding upkeep of children and transfer of property. The magnitude of the problem is that at least 25,000 women have been widowed in Kashmir since 1989; this is in addition to thousands of others whose husbands have become disabled or are leading lives as fugitives – from the security forces as active militants or from the militants as former militants.

Well that is as far as the negative side of the story goes. But that itself is the in-complete picture and a half reality about Kashmir.

The fact is that women themselves are instinctive harbingers of change and natural peace keepers. As such the women of Kashmir are no different.

The positive side of the story is that after nearly two decades of militancy, the average Kashmiris have got fed up with the cult of violence and hatred in their backyard. And the greatest agents of changes have been the women- mothers, daughters, wives and widows who have acted as a catalyst in the entire process.

Even UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, was all praise for the women of Kashmir as a symbol of resistance against terror. Addressing a gathering of nearly 5,000 women at Women's Empowerment Conference in Kashmir, "the women have always bore the brunt of any disaster, whether natural, social or political”, she said.  “Education and opportunity are the keys to women's empowerment” she added. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eid Mubarak to all friends

God is High and Supreme but He is very near to the pious thoughtful believers; He answers their prayers and helps them. He loves the people who love Him and forgives their sins. He gives them peace, happiness, knowledge and success. Best wishes... for Eid & love to all my friends.

Also Read:



Friday, August 17, 2012

The story behind Indian Independence -II

A stunned silence prevailed in the house of Commons when Attlee announced his majesty Government's desire to concede freedom to India by a date not later than June 1948. This did not prevent Churchill to make a last ditch attempt. "It is with deep grief that I watch the clattering down of the British Empire with all its glories and all the services it has rendered to mankind. Many have defended Britain against her foes. None can defend her against herself.....let us not add by shameful flight, by a premature hurried scuttle-- at least let us not add to the pangs of sorrow so many of us feel, the taint and sneer of shame,” he made an impassioned appeal. But this was one occasion when his skills as an excellent orator let him down. For once, instead of going by his dictate's, the House of Commons that day verbalized history. As soon as the division bell rang, the mandate to end British rule in India was passed by an overwhelming majority. With just 14 months remaining for 30 June, the days of the British Raj in India were numbered.

But the fact is that like everyone else, Mountbatton himself was blank as on which date to declare Indian as an independent nation. Also then not many people aware that the hidden agenda behind the new viceroy's charter was being dictated by a six year old plan to dissect India mooted by the cabinet mission headed by Sir Stafford Cripps which had come to India in 1942 (When at the peak of World War the Japanese army was on the verge of overrunning India.) Cripps plan contained Britain's solemn pledge to accord a dominion status after the War, in return for Indian army's cooperation to defeat the Japanese. The Cripps plan bent dangerously towards considering Muslim League’s discordant cries for an Islamic state, which was unpalatable to the congress leadership. Gandhi had bluntly asked Cripps to "Take the next plane home" as what he was offering was unacceptable "post dated cheque on failing bank." Whereas everyone thought that the plan was bunked once Cripps went back to England, years later this was to be the guiding light behind the new viceroy's charter. As part of this hidden agenda though Mountbatton was to avoid making the same mistakes as Cripps of trying of force an agreement upon the belligerent Indian leaders, instead he had six months to get them agree to a unified India. If he failed to do so by 1st October 1947, he was to revert to the second alternative of having a Muslim dominated Pakistan carved out of a fragmented India with a weak government at the centre.
As per his plan Mountbatton had upto 1st October 1947 to decide on the future course of action by the quick succession of events that followed his arrival in India even swept him off his feet. The communal frenzy claimed 41 lives in Calcutta and left 41 mutilated bodies on pavements of Bombay- all within a span of two days. The government, the civil service and the law and order machinery were bitterly divided between the Congress and Muslim League leaders who barely spoke to each. The feedback received from many a seasoned India hands including Field Marshal Sir Claude Auckinleck, commander-in-chief of the Indian army were far from satisfactory. With all his expectations of landing in a marvelous country known for its hospitality and leisurely Tiger safaris turning out to be plain wishful thinking, Mountbatton was quick to realize that he was sitting atop a simmering volcano, which could burst and moment. This quick obviously shook the man who back home in London had proudly boasted that he could find a solution to India's problems in ten days time. But within the first 10 days of his stay Mountbatton  made the most important decision of his life, to transfer power at the earliest possible, much before June 1948 the date himself had proposed to Attlee his first report to the his majesty's government on 2 April 1947. Mountbatton spelt out his concerns, “the scene here is one of unrelieved gloom. I can see little ground on which to build any agreed solution for the future of India. The only conclusion that I have been able to come to is that unless I act quickly, I will find the beginnings of a civil war on my hands."

Privately Mountbatton started searching the corners of his mind for possible alternatives for Indian independence. He was personally of the view that the greatest single legacy Britain could leave behind was a single and undivided India and did not want history to remember him as the man who divided the land which constituted ‘16 million of the 52 million square mile land on the surface of the globe.’ Even his chief of staff Lord Ismay wanted India to look back upon its association with Britain with pride.

What followed was hectic round of parleys with Gandhi, Nehru and Vallabh Bhai Patel on one side and Mohammad Ali Jinnah on the other. Like Gandhi and Patel, Jinnah too was a Gujarati from Kathiawar and just like the others, he was a lawyer who had practiced and honed his debating skills at London's Inns court. But unlike Gandhi, Jinnah had returned as a ‘pucca-brawn sahib’ from England. Despite his failing health, this 6 foot tall man appeared to live on “will-power, whiskey and cigarettes” and had to be fortified with secretly administered injections by Dr. J.A.L Patel a Bombay physician who had cured him of tuberculosis. But all this did not prevent him from relishing Caviar, Champagne, Brandy and Oysters, disliking khadi and wearing expensive English- style dresses which he changed three to four times a day. A man who once told Gandhi that civil disobedience was for ‘the ignorant and the illiterate’ despite being a Gujarati he just couldn't stand Gandhi whom he considered to be a orthodox Hindu and a "cunning fox". He found Nehru to be an equally despicable “arrogant Brahmin" who was “only fit to be an English professor and not a politician”.

A successful lawyer who strayed into politics, Jinnah was for all practical purpose a congressmen fighting against the British till the dhoti-clad ‘uncivilized’ Gandhi emerged as leader of the Congress. A further insult to his injured ego came after the Government of India Act, which gave some local autonomy to the Indian provinces, was passed in 1935. Buoyed by its initial success in the 1937 elections, the congress refused to share power with Jinnah and his Muslim League even in the province which had a substantial Muslim majority. This proved to be the proverbial last straw and Jinnah swore to get Pakistan as he and the Muslim League could never get a fair deal till as long as Congress ruled India.

A man who could recite fewer verses from the holy Quran than Gandhi and could hardly speak a few sentences in Urdu- the only thing Muslim about Jinnah was that it was the religion of his forefathers. A man, who ate pork, drank heavily, shaved his beard every morning and avoided the Friday Namaz at the mosque, Jinnah was an unlikely candidate as a Muslim leader, yet he swore to lay the foundations of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland.

When Louis Mountbatton arrived in India, Jinnah immediately realized that this was the man he had to cultivate, if he wanted to get anywhere near achieving his impossible dream of Pakistan. Even though Jinnah's first attempt at diplomacy proved to be a fiasco this did nothing to kill his unrelenting enthusiasm in trying to persuade Mountbatton that ‘an urgent surgical operation’ was the need  of the hour to save India standing as the verge of disaster.

Jinnah arrived well prepared for his first meeting with the new Viceroy and his wife Edwina. It was a case of hours of meticulous planning going haywire at the last minute when Jinnah who in all  his rehearsal  prior to the meeting had visualized Edwina Mountbatton to be standing between him and the Viceroy-- without even realizing that  their positions had  change blurted out the practiced phrase--'a rose between two thorns'. Indeed Jinnah standing in the middle proved to be the greatest thorn in Mountbatton flesh one which the admiral wouldn't forget for long times to come.

Jinnah was adamant in his demand for partition and on the basis of his two nation theory argued that the Indian states of Punjab and Bengal with Muslim majority should go to Pakistan. Mountbatton who was reluctant to give in to his demand for Pakistan in the first place tried to reason out with him that these state also had a sizable Hindu population and going by his own logic he would have to divide Punjab and Bengal so that the Muslim areas could go to Pakistan and the Hindu areas remained in India. When Jinnah protested that this would give him an economically ''moth-eaten'' Pakistan, Mountbatton who was not in favor of giving him any made it clear that moth-eaten or not this is all he was going to get and could either take it or leave, ''you have got your Pakistan, which at one in the world thought you'd get, I know you call it moth-eaten, but it’s Pakistan,'' Mountbatton later told Jinnah.

What Jinnah failed to realize was that even after the surgical amputation to carve out a Muslim dominated Pakistan, India would still have almost 50 million Muslims-making it the Country with the third largest Muslim Population after Indonesia and Pakistan. Apart from diluting the strength that undivided India could enjoy in world affairs, Jinnah also failed to appreciate that the Pakistan he was demanding would always remain a logical and geographic aberration. Firstly the Punjabi and Bengali Muslims had nothing else in common apart from a shared religion. They did not speak the same language and did not have to anything in common apart from shared cultural, linguistic or historic traditions. As Lord Curzon who had tried to divide Bengal into two administratively manageable halves on the basis of religion had learnt after much bloodbath in 1905-both Punjabis and Bengalis were, Indians first, Punjabi or Bengalis next and Hindus or Muslims later. Yet apart from the insurmountable problems in dividing the heats and mind of the Punjabis and Bengalis by physical boundaries, Jinnah also failed to appreciate the problems he was in for given the fact that, the Pakistan of his dreams would be a geographic nightmare with two heads 970 miles  apart with the mighty Himalayas and Indian territory in between. Even as early as April 1974, Sir Fredrick Burrows the last British Governor General of Bengal had predicted that East Bengal was condemned to turn into the  greatest rural slum in history in the event of India's partition and Mountbatton himself believed that the future Pakistan was so inherently unviable that it would ''fail on this own demerits''. In fact as Mountbatton told C. Raja Gopalachari who was to be the first Indian Governor General after independence, “East Bengal would be out of Pakistan in a quarter of a century”-his prediction came true a year earlier in 1971 when Bangladesh became independent. But Jinnah still insisted on his sandwich of doom-Pakistan. Almost on the verge of death due to failing health the stubbornness behind Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan was partly due to the fact that he did not want death to cheat him of the glory and splendor as a head of state. Like nothing else he wanted to be the first Governor General of free-Pakistan. When Mountbatton pointed out that he had chosen the wrong job as Governor General was only a Symbolic post whereas Prime Minister enjoyed all the Powers, true to his dictatorial style of running the Muslim League the future Quaid-e-Azam coldly replied: "In Pakistan, I will be Governor General and the Prime Minister would do what I tell him to do."

When every logic and argument failed, partition of India was inevitable. And plan Balkan named after Balkanization of states of central Europe after World War I took shape. Under this plan each of India's 11 provinces was given the option to choose whether to join Pakistan or remain in India. By now Patel and Nehru once strongly in favor of unified India had reconciled themselves to partition. Rearing to get down to the task of building an independent India Patel suggested that Jinnah should be given Pakistan, which anyway wouldn’t survive and five years down the line Muslim league would be knocking India's doors for reunification. Nehru on the other hand detested partition but saw himself as its greatest beneficiary as with Jinnah gone, there would be no one to contest his position and the future prime Minister of India so he too gave up his protests. Gandhi-who at one stage suggested giving 'the whole baby to the Muslims, instead of dissecting it' implying that Jinnah and Muslim League be offered the chance to form the government of the whole of India instead of a part of it, was left all alone ironically the man who once said “let the whole nation be in flames. We will not concede one inch to Pakistan" and whose instinctive understanding of the pulse and soul of the masses convinced him that partition would lead to sickening slaughter and terrible violence, too gave in without much of a protest. A broken hearted man he timidly told the viceroy that he was unable to carry his colleagues with him and silently accepted defeat. But this was one silence; future generation of Indians would never pardon Gandhi for. He himself realized this and paid a heavy price for it. "Today I find myself alone. Even Patel and Nehru think I am wrong and peace is sure to return if partition is agreed upon. They wonder if I am not disoriented with age... May be all of them are right and I alone am floundering in darkness,” he lamented.

"Everybody is eager to garland my photos and status but nobody wants to follow my advice,” said the frail old main who could see ahead of times and how true his own assessment has proved even today. "They call me a Mahatma but I tell you I am not even treated by them as a sweeper" he bitterly told a friend later. “I shall perhaps not be able to witness it but should the evil I apprehend overtake India and her independence be imperiled, let posterity know the agony this old soul went thinking of it" he told Manu.

At this stage Sardar Patel-the iron-man of India was quick to realize that like himself Mountbatton too was in a hurry to get on his mission so he went a step further to propose that like Canada, India and Pakistan be declared dominion nations under the commonwealth instead of waiting for the lengthy procedures of drawing up the constitution and electing people's representatives to whom the power could be transferred. The Congress, he suggested could be prepared to accept the commonwealth, if Mountbatton acted quickly and ensured that India was granted independence long before the deadline of 30 June 1948. This clinched the deal. surprisingly even Winston Churchill who once believed that the subcontinent in the hands of “inexperienced, theoretical and probably corrupt Indian's seething with communal passions could not even survive for long without the efficient British administration of proven integrity, too agreed to lend his conservative party's support to the legislation for granting independence to India in the British parliament-if Mountbatton could work around all the Indian parties to publicly accept his plan.

Thus with Gandhi marginalized even in his own party and Attlee, Churchill, Patel and Nehru backing him-Mountbatton's task became all the more easier as Jinnah though vacillating in his last few days couldn't bring himself  to say: no to the "moth-eaten" Pakistan for which he had lobbied so hard. Mountbatton whose patience was running low called Jinnah to his side and said. “If you do not you head Mr. Jinnah then you are through and there'll be nothing more I can do for you. Everything will collapse. This is not a threat. It is a prophecy if you don't nod your head at that moment, my usefulness here will be ended and you will have lost your Pakistan and as far as I am concerned, you can go to hell. Jinnah was always in favor of independent Pakistan joining the commonwealth but for the Congress it was a identity crisis as since 1857 for the last 90 odd years it had been fighting to server its links with the British imperialists. But Sardar Patel’s proposal changed the scenario.

2 June 1947: The seven men representing the hopes and aspirations of the 400 million Indians, waited with baited breath in the viceroy’s study for Mountbatton to announce the future course of action approved the British cabinet 48 hours ago. The Congress was represented by its president Acharya Kriplani, Nehru and Patel with Jinnah, Liaqat Ali and Rab Nistar from the Muslim league and Sardar Baldev Singh representing the six million Sikhs who were one of the most likely people to be affected by whatever decision was taken by the others. Gandhi was Conspicuous by his absence, as he did not hold any official position in the Congress. Before any of seven men got a chance to express any last minute reservation, Mountbatton plucked the ground under their feet by placing a 34 page typed in single space titled “The Administrative Consequences of Partition.” It was for the time that seven leaders got a glimpse of the magnitude of the problems that lay in store. While everyone seemed to agree that partition was inevitable, none of them had so far realized how difficult it was going be. How were they to divide the Taj Mahal or the Indus River, which had centuries of common and shared traditions behind them? While they could still somehow divide the material assets like cash in banks, stamps in post  offices, books in libraries, research centres, roads, bridges, universities. Hospitals, Furniture inkpots or brooms but how were they to divide the brains, hearts and minds where common memories and shared moments were stored? All the seven men were so much stunned by the magnitude of the assets and losses to be transferred to even think of asking the next question, when was this going to take place. Later when Gandhi came to know about the proceedings of this meeting his spontaneous reaction was of extreme sorrow but he simply said, "May God protect them and grant them all wisdom".

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The story behind India's Independence Series -1

 Jinxed at birth; Bundled with paradoxes -1

It is the king who makes the Satyuga; the Treata and the Dwapra; he is the cause of the Kalyuga too-- Bhishma's wisdom

By Neeraj Mahajan

Mahatma Gandhi
Midnight 8 August 1942: ''Leave India to God, to  chaos or even anarchy, if you wish but leave India, these words of Mahatma Gandhi calling the British imperialists to “Quit India" at a gathering of All India Congress Committee in Bombay Hall, did more then just that. In a way they sealed India’s destiny. Even though it was never Gandhi’s intention to invite chaos or anarchy and he simply wanted the Britishers to Quit India, he would have been most unhappy today, if he were to realize that his unintended comment about leaving India to God’s mercy and chaos would actually come true.

Lord Mountbatton
15 August 1947: The British left but not before officiating the bloodiest surgical operation in the history of mankind -- the partition of India. Even Lord Mountbatton-- the men who presided over India's division wrote; “partition is sheer madness and no one would ever induce me to agree to it were it not for this fantastic communal madness that has seized everybody and leaves no other course open. The responsibility for this mad decision must be placed squarely on Indian shoulders in the eyes of the world, for one day they will bitterly regret the decision they are about make.''

Was the birth of the nation itself jinxed?

20 March 1947: Even before Mountbatton landed on Indian soil as the last Viceroy, everyone knew that the mandate given to him by the House of Commons clearly spelt the requirement ''to take the necessary steps to affect the transfer of power into responsible Indian hands by a date, not later than June 1948''. But no one, not even Mountbatton knew exactly when this transfer of power would take effect.

“These Indians… they are a beastly people with a beastly religion, these were the very words that Winston Churchill had used to describe his feelings towards India. A firm believer in the theory that such “less breeds, without the law” were better off under the British Empire he expected the Indian masses to thankful to the British instead of opposing them. The man who contemptuously dismissed Gandhi as “half-naked-fakir” and his followers as “man of straw”, he regarded the whole breed of Indian freedom fighters as half-educated, ungrateful and ignorant people who could' t even realize that they were making a big mistake and acting against the larger interest of the common masses. “Gandhi and all he stands for must be crushed,” he thundered. But instead of intimidating Gandhi  it only added to his firm resolve as is evident from his saying, if we Indians spat in unison, we would from a puddle large enough to drown these hundred thousand Englishmen.''

For nearly 37 years, since 1910 Churchill tried his level best and succeeded in resisting every attempt to concede the right of self-government to the people of India. One thing he was sure of was that the strength of the Empire determined Britain’s position in the world. “I did not become his Majesty's first Prime minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire'', he would say.

“The loss of India, he once said, “would be final and fatal to us. It could not fail to be part of a process that would reduce us to the scale of a minor power”. Fortunately for India, his words however had no impact on the ongoing negotiations in Delhi, which produced the Gandhi-lrwin pact after eight meetings over 21 days. The text of this document read more like a treaty between two nations and was perceived as a major victory for Gandhi who managed to secure the release of thousands of his followers from jail besides an invitation to attend a round table conference with King George VI at Buckingham Palace in London to discuss India’s future. Gandhi walked into the tea meeting with the King dressed in his typical loincloth with sandals on his feet and a bamboo staff. Later when questioned by curious onlookers Gandhi simply smiled and said, “The king was wearing enough for both of us.” However the round table conference itself was a non-starter and the bitter reality that emerged out it was that London was not yet ready to accept a free and independent India.

Ironically, Churchill, who described his role in the 2nd world war as 'fight for freedom' was not at all in favor of granting freedom to India the second largest country in the world. And when world statesmen like president Roosevelt of United States exerted pressure on him, he preferred to play the role of a poor looser and sent back a note saying that he had no intension of allowing the Indian Muslim to be governed by the Congress caucus and the Hindu priesthood when 75% of the Indian soldier were Muslims.” Whereas the actual number of Muslims in Indian army then was less than 35, this was not to deter Churchill from distorting the figures as long as he achieved his aim- to stall if not, scuttle the Indian struggle for independence atleast till as long as possible. He was quite satisfied when the Cripps Mission failed, content with the self-assumption that everything that needed to be done had indeed been done. But thankfully there were not many who shared his presumption. One such person was President Roosevelt who sent a telegraph to somehow try again. Churchill was so furious that he spent the next two hours releasing ‘a string of cuss words in the middle of the night.’

Finally even after his conservative party was defeated in 1945 he still had the absolute majority in the House of Lords, which gave him authority to delay the Indian Independence for full two years. Luckily for India, Clement Attlee the man who succeeded him at No 10 Downing Street did not share most of his views.

The two-page note signed by Attlee was categorical about Raj’s intentions. No other Viceroy had ever received such a mandate. Infact it is said that Attlee himself had drafted a much lengthy document which for all practical purposes had been pruned and rewritten by the dynamic 47-year old admiral and cousin of King George VI who was being sent to India to negotiate Britain's departure. The fourth child of Queen Victoria's grand-daughter Princess Victoria of Hesse and Prince Louis of Battenberg, Mountbatton insisted that his terms of reference should comprise a special injunction to include independent India within the Commonwealth ‘if at all possible.’ Mountbatton’s own fascination with India dated back to November 1921 when he had visited the country for the first time as the youthful ADC to David, the Prince of Wales. This was also a part of the 'secret' understanding between him and his cousin King George who was crowned the emperor of India without having visited the country and now on the verge of losing his title. “I know I’ve got to take ''I'' out of GRI. I've got to give up being King Emperor but I would profoundly saddened if all the links with India were severed.... It would be a pity if an independent India, would turn its back against Commonwealth.'' the Monarch had pleaded with cousin to try and atleast maintain the facade in his moments of fading glory. George VI's last hope was to see commonwealth the framework in which India and other newly independent nations maintained their symbolic ties with Britain as this would allow her to retain the veneer of her erstwhile imperial touch in the new world affairs. He could see the writing on the wall that if India Refused to join, other Afro-Asian nations which might attain Freedom in the years to come, would follow suit and Great Britain and Commonwealth Would be reduced to a tottering non-entity with no say at all across the English Channel. King George VI's eternal desire was that if even by a slim chance, Mountbatton was able to persuade India to retain its shared heritage with Great Britain, London would still remain the spiritual capital of a large chunk of the globe.

Though initially Atlee and his Labour party were theoretically opposed to the idea borne out of the 'secret-pact’ between Mountbatton and his sovereign cousin, in the end the viceroy designate had his way and dictated most of the revised text on which Attlee affixed his seal and stamp of authority. After nearly six weeks of brain storming session the new document, thus produced spelt the new viceroy’s role to break the Indian impasse in clear and simple terms. This document signed by Attlee officially authorized Mountbatton to make every effort of transfer of power to India as an independent nation within the commonwealth by June 1948.

(To be continued)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Top 10 Qualities - Why Krishna is relevant even today

By Neeraj Mahajan

Lord Krishna --is one of the most loved Gods in Hindu religion. According to legend he was the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and was born in ‘Dwapur Yug’ as the eighth child of Devki and Vasudev but was brought up by Mata Yashoda and Baba Nand.

The issue is what makes him relevant even today? Why is it that even today, every mother in India, wants to be devki/yashoda and every child want to be a krshna. Why is it that people consider Krishna their leader, hero, protector, philosopher, teacher and friend? What is the magic behind his image as a cult figure-- god-child, prankster, model lover, divine hero and Supreme Being? Some of his most endearing titles include Mohan the enchanter of women, Gopinath - lord of the the gopis, Shyama sundara - meaning dark & beautiful, Govinda—the finder of cows and Gopala the protector of cows.

I am the conscience in the heart of all creatures
I am their beginning, their being, their end
I am the mind of the senses,
I am the radiant sun among lights
I am the song in sacred lore,
I am the king of deities
I am the priest of great seers…"

This is how he describes himself, the Supreme Being or the Purna Purushotam.

He was born in prison but promises to liberation from the circle of life and death. Indeed, it's very difficult to find any another Krishna -- the Lord of all Lords!!

Quality # 1: Simplicity

The foremost quality that Lord Krishna stand’s for is his simplicity. The word, “Krishna” itself means “dark complexioned”.  He spent his early childhood in Gokul – a 'cow-village' in Northern India before moving to Vrindavan. It was his weakness for butter which earned him the nickname “Makhan Chor”.  Another aspect of his simplicity was his great friendship with Sudama – a poor Brahmin whom he remembered even as a king.  

He was very naughty as a child and is believed to mischievously hide the clothes of Gopis. This is cited as an example of divine Love. Possibly this was another of his ways of sending the message that God is full of Love and only He is worth loving. As he himself said:

"O Uddhava, the Gopis have dedicated their heart & soul to me, snapping for my sake all their physical ties. I sustain those who renounce for my sake all worldly enjoyments and their means. A devotee who has thus surrendered his whole being to Me covets not the position of Brahma, the position of Indra, the position of an Emperor, sovereignty over the nether regions, the eight Siddhis (mystic powers) of Yoga, nay, not even salvation, where there is no return to this world, apart from Me."  
Equally important is what he had to say about this kind of devotees:

"To sanctify myself with the dust of their feet, I constantly follow the footsteps of such devotees. I bow again & again to the sacred feet of these Gopis who are merged & lost in this divine Love of Shri Krishna."

One more example of his simplicity was how he formed relationships or bonds of love with ordinary human beings. As a son he loved both Devki and Yashoda. He regarded Arjun as a friend. There are hardly any such parallels from the lives of other Avtars including Lord Rama.

Quality # 2: Protector of the masses

Right from early childhood he did many things to protect the people. According to legend, even as child, Lord Krishna killed demoness Putana who tried to poison him, drove away the monsterous Kaliya Nag and lifted the Govardhana hill up with his little finger to protect the people of Vrindavana from the torrential rain. This earned him the title Girdhari and Banwari - one who stays in the forests of Vrindavan.

Quality # 3: Mr Dependable-- A friend in need

A significant aspect of Lord Krishna’s role is the manner in which he saved the dignity of Draupadi from the Kaurvas.

Right from the time he was born till the end of his avthar, Lord Krshna was in the limelight for whatever he did. He showed the people how to fight injustice and perform their duty. He was always willing to do everything for his bhakthas and followers. As a dependable friend, he helped his friend Sudama to overcome his penury and helped Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, who had immense faith in him.

Krishna was a personal god, always accessible and unfailingly responsive.

Quality # 4: Ocean of knowledge

Lord Krishna is regarded as "Solah Kala Sampoorna” and “Poorna Purushottam”. He had great knowledge of all the forms and arts of fighting and defence—yet he tried to negotiate peace and said war was the last option. He acted as a cowherd, teacher, protector, friend, guide and philosopher of Arjuna. was an unparalleled statesman, an accomplished charioteer, a master flute player and master musician. He gave lessons to Narada in the art of playing the Vina. His flute thrilled the hearts of the Gopis and made all the cows gather at one place.

Quality # 5: Cosmic Lover

As the God of Devine Love -- Lord Krishna showed the path of devine love. His love for Radha was both immortal and pious. Even though he married Rukmini till date his name is always taken with his childhood love Radha. Similarly his love for the Gopis and Meera is part of folk lore till date.

Quality # 6: Role in Mahabharata

Lord Krishna shall always be remembered for his role played in the epic battle fought between Pandavas and Kauravas in Kurukshetra. Gita - Literally meaning 'Song of God', contains his teachings to Arjuna during Mahabharata. Lord Krishna's famous words “karm kar phal ki chinta mat kar” have been the basis of modern society.

Quality # 7: Philosophy of Karma

As the divine messenger Lord Krishna stressed on the importance of Dharma (Righteousness) and good Karma (Deeds) as a way to attain Moksha (salvation). According to him joy, sorrow, grief, happiness are all maya (illusion); and only the love between God and the devotee is real. 

He defined four kinds of actions or karma that a human can perform – these included Kamya Karma- actions performed for selfish gains, Nishiddha Karma- or actions forbidden by holy texts and scriptures, Nitya Karma or actions that must be performed daily and Naimittika Karma-Actions that must be performed on certain special occasions.

Quality # 8: As Guru/ Teacher as well as Student 

But above all as students one of the most spectacular aspect of his personality is his role as a student and a Guru or teacher.

Do you know Lord Krishna and Balrama mastered 64 sciences and arts in 64 days just by hearing everything once from Rishi Sandipani. Upon completion of their studies – as a gurudaksina or tuition fees, Sri Krishna and Balarama fought with demon Shankhasur and Yamaraj to being Sandipani's dead son to life. How many disciples in this age may go to such extent for sake of their Guru of his family?

As a teacher Lord Krishna taught the supreme truths of Yoga, Bhakti and Vedanta to Arjuna and Uddhava.

Quality # 9: Tactful Communicator

From his early childhood onwards Lord Krishna displays superior communication and negotiation skills to deal with people – both friends and enemies. Early on he spins a tale – main nahim makhan khayo – to convince his mother and escape punishment. There are other instances where he influences friends to take part in mischief and mesmerize ‘gopees’ with his sweet talk. Later as an ambassador of Pandavas in the court of Kauravas he uses his communication, negotiation and diplomatic skills to avoid war. But, deep inside his heart he wants the war to happen so that good can prevail over evil thus uses propaganda skills to make Duryodhana afraid of the Pandava’s strength and fighting skills.

In this sense Lord Krishna is one of the greatest corporate communicators who know exactly what to communicate when and how with every one of the stakeholders and Mahabaratha is a great communication treatise. Lord Krishna’s presentation style, non verbal or verbal communication, interpersonal skills, mass communication is relevant even today and should be a model for modern Management and Communication practitioners.

Lord Krishna is an excellent politician – always concerned about his people.  As a King with a mighty army he never invaded any kingdom. Even though his Narayani Sena could defeat Jarasandh when he attacked Mathura, Krishna fled to Dwarka. This earned him the title of "Ranchhod Das" meaning a coward, who fleas the battlefield – but he fled to avoid unnecessary loss of lives.

The story goes that Krishna and Balaram faced Jarasanth the father-in-law of Kansa in battle eighteen times but allowed him to run away each time. But Krishna was worried that even though he was winning battles, he was losing men. And people of Mathura couldn’t sustain under a constant state of attack. Krishna did not want Mathura to suffer. Besides this was not the right time to end Jarasanth's life. So he decided to flee to Dwaraka – which was an island and hence impossible to attack. Even today tactical retreat is an accepted military strategy.

Quality # 10: As a Manager & Leader  

Ask any modern CEO about the importance of management, leadership and communication to make men do things they did not wish to do initially. This is the essence of Management – the art of getting things done through people, efficiently and effectively. When it comes to that Lord Krishna comes out as one of the greatest Manager, the greatest planner and crisis Manager of all times.  He is a master strategist and tactful leader adopting who adopts different leadership styles according to situation and people he has to deal with. But above all the manner in which he manages to brainwash Arjun and get him to do the job expected of him – is exemplanary. What is equally noteworthy is that unlike many CEOs today – he is not hands on – in the sense does not pick up weapons himself but instead makes his team perform their respective task. Isn’t this what management is not to do everything yourself but to get others to achieve their goals.

Controlling an army of 1.53 million soldiers and warriors of the Pandava Army to fight and win against a bigger army was not an easy task. But Lord Krishna’s Command and Control strategy was based on delegation of responsibility – under a unified command. The 1.53 million soldiers were divided in seven divisions each led by a Commander. They were controlled by a Supreme Commander who himself was guided by the Pandavas and Krishna. According to Management Guru Henry Fayol no team or organization can achieve desired results without appropriate allocation of role and team spirit. This is exactly what Lord Krishna’s role as a coordinators was to determine what Yudhishtir would do, where Arjun would be and what exactly Bhim would do at what stage of the battle.

Being God Lord Krishna could have accomplished everything himself singlehandedly and taken all the credit. But probably that’s what leadership all about not to hog the limelight yourself but to make everything a participatory task.  A leader is not the one who walks, but the one who leads walking ahead of others.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Relevance of Krishna - in the present context - 1

God or Sinner?

By Neeraj Mahajan

Many people in India and all over the world worship Lord Krishna as God. The best thing about him is that unlike Lord Rama who is always straightforward and maryada purshottam, Lord Krishna is playful, mischievous and naughty. He doesn’t even mind when his devotees call him natkhat or makhan chor like you would do to a child or friend next door.

But still there are many people for instance in North East India who refuse to acknowledge Lord Krishna as God. For this very reason there are not many Krishna temples in North East India. How can a person who lies and steals be God they say? People in North East in particular hold a grudge against Lord Krishna because for the first time he kidnapped Rukmani the princess of Vidarbha and took away some 16,000 girls, 14,000 elephant and horses to Dwaraka after slaying Narakaxur in Kamrup. Years later he arrived in North East – this time to help his grandson Aniruddha elope with Usha, the only daughter of Asur king Ban of Tezpur. Is this conduct becoming of God to abduct women or help his grandson do so – they ask?

The story goes that for Rukmini haran, Krishna traveled all the way from Dwaraka to Kundilnagar on the banks of Brahmputra to kidnap Rukmani. Although the original Kundilnagar has vanished, horse foot prints can still be seen over the stones of Ashwaklanta in north Guwahati.

According to popular legend the Devtas, were being oppressed by Narkasura the wicked demon king of Pragjothishyapur, in present day Assam. Narkasura had gained a boon from Brahma that he would die only in the hands of his mother. Similarly his mother had obtained a boon from Lord Vishnu that her Son should die only when she wishes it. So on the request of the Devtas Lord Krishna along with his wife Satyabhama the incarnation of Bhoomi Devi mounted Garuda, went to Pragjyotisa. In the fierce fight that followed Lord Krishna with the help of Satyabhama defeated Narkasura in a fight and rescued his 16,100 daughters. After returning back to Dwarka, he married them and built a place for each of his wives.

According to strict social custom at that he time all the captive women were degraded, and unfit to marry, as they had been under the control of Narakasura. Thus Krishna married them to reinstate their status in the society. This wedding with 16100 abandoned daughters was more of mass women rehabilitation. In Vaishnava traditions, Krishna's wives are believed to be forms of the goddess Lakshmi—consort of Vishnu, or special souls who attained this qualification after many lifetimes of austerity, while his queen Satyabhama, is an expansion of Radha.

Also after the battle Krishna crowned Bhagadatta- the elder son of Narakaxur as the king of Kamrup. To take out his vengeance King Bhagadatta and his large contingent of troops fought the battle of Kurukshetra in favour of Kauravas sitting atop his gigantic elephant.

Lord Krishna’s grandson Aniruddha too eyed Kamrup. This time beautiful Usha, the only daughter of Asur king Ban. In the heavy fight Aniruddha was captured and there was a lot of bloodshed. Finally lord Krishna intervened and ban was defeated. Present day Tezpur is based on the ruins of Ban capital in Tezpur. The Tezpur court building was once Ban’s palace on the banks of Brahmaputra.

Hence the people in the Brahmputra valley legitimately question how they can worship a person who visited the region twice both times to abduct local women from the area.

This brings us to the question is Lord Krishna sinful, unholy, womanizer and a playboy or something else. What else do you say about a person who hides the clothes of naked women, indulges in eve-teasing, steals petty things like butter, tells lies and cheats to win a battle? Can such a person be God? Can God be naughty and mischievous?

That does not make any sense. Krishna was not a child when he went after 1600 gopies.
Even in kalyug such a person would be called a playboy and such mischievous behavior will not be acceptable from for any person. Not the least from a person who claims to be god?