Sunday, July 19, 2009

A New Beginning

As a man determines, so he becomes. (Vedas)

The time has finally come. Two years, endless tests, countless hours of work and toil and several weeks of debate have come to their climax. Tomorrow, I leave for New Delhi, from where I will be making my way to Saharanpur to join the Saharanpur Campus of IIT Roorkee. It's been nearly 16 years since I last visited North India (taking Mumbai to be neither North nor South), I don't even remember anything about it!

In my life, there have always been phases and each phase has had its own contribution. Tomorrow, I take the first step in a new phase, a phase from which I have great hopes. But before I tell you what I expect from my time at IIT, let me discuss what I'm leaving behind.

The last two years in Hyderabad have been very difficult, but friendship has helped me get through them. I owe a great deal to Akshay and Krishna Bharani for, without them, I could not get through it all. I will also remember all the others from Sri Chaitanya, whom I covered through my reports on this blog. Then, there were classes 8-10. While I made some life-long enemies in this period, I made an even greater number of friends. Two achievements with which I walk way with from here are the NTSE Scholarship and my year as Headboy.

From Kochi, I learned a great number of lessons. I remember all my friends from there, as well as my favourite teacher, Rina ma'am. Even before that, there was Kalpa. It was a time when I learned how life is lead outside the confines of the armed forces and the lessons here were invaluable. And finally, Mumbai. That is an open chapter in my life, and my association with Mumbai has not ended yet. The future will hold more.

Now, as I enter a new phase, I have some hopes. I hope to make new friends, with whom I can share a bond forever; I hope to change some habits that I desperately need to lose; I hope to do well in academics, notwithstanding the fact that I make up the GE closing rank; I hope to hone my literary skills, which have taken a severe beating in the last two years; and most importantly, I wish to learn to live independently, as an individual, and shed those chains that bond me.

As a new world begins tomorrow, I cannot help but feel anxious. But difficult steps must be taken and I am not alone. As the sun sets, so too does the old. But when the sun rises, a new era shall begin.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Part 4: A Look into the Future










In the last part, we discussed the negative points about the corporate colleges of Hyderabad and how they endanger our society.

In this, the final part, we look at the future of our society if these corporate colleges are allowed to perpetuate their system, and how society itself needs to change the way it thinks.

Techno, e-Techno, Concept, Olympiad etc.
Corporate colleges, given their huge surpluses, have, in the last few years, begun to extend their grip into school education. Based on the lie of 'IIT Foundation course' and air-conditioned classrooms, they charge very high fees but actually do a great deal of damage to young children.

Firstly, there is no such thing as an IIT Foundation course. It is just a matter of teaching a Class 7 student the syllabus of Class 8 or 9: these schools will never teach anything that is actually useful for IITJEE. Without any exception, corporate schools do not come with a playground or other amenities and are set up in apartment blocks, much like their junior college cousins! The timings here are also equally gruelling and students suffer from the same detrimental problems as those in junior colleges. The only difference is that students suffer for a good 10 years, compounding their problems.

This must end. Corporate colleges were bad enough, corporate schools are much worse! We are losing future sportsmen, musicians, artists and leaders; children are being denied the right to choose their future; and laws and rights are being blatantly overlooked. These corporate schools create a false image that one must choose between academics and sports: this is a false choice. Nothing is good in excess, playing sports all the time or studying all the time are both equally bad.

If the inhuman regime established by these corporate schools/colleges continues, our society will be full of angry, intolerant young minds. Such a society is doomed.

Think Differently
The most effective and long-term way to contain these corporate colleges is to change our mindset. We as a society oppose change, we move along with the herd mentality, not realising that change is good and necessary. Parents must never believe that engineering and medicine are the only options: there are many other options today, and many of them pay well, although money should not be the only measure of success.

Find out about various fields of work, their scope and what skills they need. Do not do something just because everybody else is doing it. Read books, newspapers and magazines; surf the Internet; talk to people in diverse fields. Find out about the vast array of careers available today.

And most importantly, listen to your child: listen to both what is said and what is understood. Parents can only guide their children, they cannot choose for them. Parents should never impose their dreams on their children under the false impression that they know what is right or wrong. If their child really wants to pursue a particular line of career, even if it is not Engineering, Medicine or Commerce, then parents should stand back. They should not discourage their children from chasing their dreams. Failure is not a bad thing, it is the stepping stone to success.

Conclusion
Remember that there is always hope. Even the darkest of clouds has a silver lining. The battle against corporate colleges is a battle for the future of our society and nation as a whole. It is a battle that will require hard work and a paradigm shift in general public opinion. The battle will be long and hard, but we must win, for the sake of our future. And we will win.

(Concluded)

Good effects but lacks action

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE (2009)

Producer: Warner Bros.
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent and others
Screenplay: Steve Kloves based on Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling
Rating: **** (4 of 5)

The problem, according to many, with the Harry Potter books is that they are just too big to read. And that's why the movies are so popular and much-awaited (that's not to say that the movies aren't good by themselves, of course!). The sixth edition of the Harry Potter series came with a lot of expectations, and it lives up to most of them.

In his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry is faced with the spectre of Lord Voldemort's power growing rapidly coupled with Dumbledore's ill-health. In the meantime, Horace Slughorn decides to come back to Hogwarts to teach Potions, with Snape getting the DADA job at last. Dumbledore tells Harry about Voldemort's past as Tom Riddle and the key to destroying him.

The movie comes with some exceptionally good effects, particularly the Cave scene. The Inferi and the ring of fire were done very well. The Room of Requirement was also done well as was the larger-than-life look of Hogwarts Castle.

Unlike the fourth and fifth movies, the screenplay here was good and generally left ardent readers of Harry Potter without too many complaints. So, while some scenes such as the burning down of The Burrow were created for the movie, others like Slughorn's Christmas Party stuck to the book perfectly. However, some of the additions in the movie were glaringly incorrect. For example, Ginny Weasley accompanying Harry to the Room of Requirement, wizards (including a pure blood) serving drinks and Harry not being petrified by Dumbledore on the astronomy Tower (I doubt if Harry would obey Dumbledore's orders even in this situation). Draco Malfoy looked funny wearing a suit instead of robes the entire time!

Also unlike the previous movies was the exclusion of action scenes: the sixth movie was supposed to include a grand duel between Death Eaters and students and teachers of Hogwarts, but it does not. Even the story of the Half Blood Prince was placed on a slow, parallel track. Dumbledore's funeral was deleted altogether from the nearly two a half hours long movie, perhaps leaving it for the next director to imagine.

As always, the costumes were good and the effects were excellent. The acting was also good, although Draco Malfoy's part was not played very convincingly. Some parts, most notably the Quidditch try-outs could have been left out altogether. Most of the scenes are dark with very little sunlight, if at all. This is justified, as this is supposed to be the 'darkest' (no pun intended) movie yet.

I saw the movie in 2D, but you could watch it on IMAX 3D, although it will cost you a lot more. Either way, watch the movie carefully because a lot of it will have to be recalled in the next movie. I don't think I need to recommend anybody to watch the movie, you are going to anyway. Hate it or love it, you just can't ignore a Harry Potter movie!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Betraying the Nation?

The joint statement signed by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan seems to be a sell out to Indian interests. The document has tactical errors which Pakistan can use against India.

The biggest failure of Indian diplomats is the inclusion of the statement on Balochistan. India has always been clear that its embassy and consulates in Afghanistan have never supported Baloch insurgents. Why then, did this point have to be included in the text? In his post-meeting press conference, the Prime Minister simply said that, since India had nothing to hide, the statement was inserted by the Pakistanis with Indian consent. But why was the point that India never supported Baloch insurgents not put in the text? Tomorrow, when the Pakistani press reports that 'India accepts it supported Baloch groups,' what is the Indian Government going to say? We have just given up a major upper-hand and Dr. Singh will have to explain this to the people of India.

Next, the point that India and Pakistan are both victims of terrorism. This old cliche has been rebutted so many times by the Indian Government that it is nothing less than an absolute shock to see it once again. Let us be clear: India is a victim of terrorists who were created and nurtured by Pakistan's military-cum-Government, while Pakistan is suffering today because some, if not most, of those terrorists are pointing their guns at Pakistan itself. The two cannot be equated and by allowing this statement to reappear in the document, the Prime Minister has made a serious error.

Then there is the point about foreign secretary-level talks being held as often as necessary. This is as good as a slap on the face of the people of Mumbai and the rest of India as well. It seems the high posture assumed by the first UPA has died down and now talks will proceed, even as India has been warned by the UN of more imminent strikes by the same group that carried out 26/11 and which is, in theory, banned by Pakistan. So, when the next terror attack happens in India, Pakistan can come down with this joint statement and simply say 'Oh, forget it, we should talk.' If this was the eventual idea, then why even pull out of the Composite Dialogue? Just keep it going, India's population might dip in the process, but so what?

Perhaps the only positive note in the document is the lack of any mention of Kashmir. However, this document is poorly made and will cost India dearly in the future. The PM has a lot to answer once he returns to India.

In the meantime, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also be making a visit to India. Here again, South Block will have to fight a raging fire in the form of the G8 declaration prohibiting ENR sales to non-NPT nations. Although it does not really hurt any of India's proposed nuclear projects (we are fully self-sufficient in ENR and the new plants will only be for energy), it is a matter of dilution of the 'full civilian cooperation' clause in the 123 Agreement and could be followed by further, more serious, dilution if South Block does not act fast.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Part 3: The Human and Social Cost

diocumentary the_cursed_generation

 

 

 

 

 

In the last part, we saw how Corporate Colleges use a clever combination of bribe and propaganda to hide their horrendous methods, often taking Government officials into confidence in the process.

 

Now, we examine how the methods employed by them affect children and society as a whole. We present this in the form of some simple points and substantiate them.

 

  1. The strategies of these corporate colleges has created a psyche in society that Engineering and Medicine are the only lines of career that are worth pursuing. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not true that students of BA, B.Com and B.Sc are left with no jobs. A student of BA (Foreign languages) can earn over Rs. 1 lakh a month. It is not necessary that a teenager of 16 years would want to pursue only Engineering or Medicine; they are probably interested in something else, including sports. Corporate Colleges create a sense of fear towards failure. They point out that for every successful artist or sportsman, there are several failures. Failure is not a bad thing, it precedes success. Talent and hardwork alone determine one's success, not one's profession.
  2. Corporate Colleges treat students as mark-scoring machines, not humans. They conduct hundreds, even thousands of tests over a short span of two years and punish students for failure, often using phrases such as 'last chance' or 'final warning' to intimidate students. For them, poor marks directly implies an apathy towards studies, they do not even once consider that a student might be collapsing under pressure or some other emotional trauma. For them, students are emotionless, only meant to carry the burden of excessive expectations.
  3. The atmosphere of extreme stress created by these colleges pushes students towards smoking, drugs, alcohol and even suicide. Almost all these colleges have little shops selling cigarettes outside them. Drug agents make quick money here. It is as simple a matter as to stand outside a corporate college in the evening to see students smoking. These colleges do not care about all this: for them, a student might die in five years, but if he gets them a good rank in the process, it is worth it! If a student is caught smoking or doping in the premises, they are simply 'shifted' to another campus, where they will be around more students like themselves. They do not feel that they have any responsibility towards the student. For them, marks and ranks alone matter.
  4. Corporate colleges directly lower the standards of colleges and Universities in which their former students go. This might seem paradoxical, but it is true. The lie that 'you just have to study like a maniac for two years and the rest of your life will be smooth sailing' is ingrained into students' minds and they remember it. When they go to college, they bunk classes and mug up answers just before exams. They become allergic to studies: it seems a chore, not a pleasure, to them. The two years in corporate colleges kill the sense of inquisitiveness and desire to learn that should characterise a student. In addition, because students neglect their academics, they take up other methods to kill time, principal among them being ragging. Ragging, outlawed by the Supreme Court of India, is something students here look forward to indulging in to 'relieve them of stress'!
  5. Students' mental health in corporate colleges deteriorates significantly. A constant sense of fear and intimidation damages a student's sense of safety and even makes them wonder whether life is worth living like this. An atmosphere of extreme stress causes hypertension. Before exams, students complain of lack of sleep or nightmares related to the punishment they would meet in case of failure.Students in hostels are the worst off: many of them beg their parents to take them back within the first week. The trauma is often unbearable and students carry these memories all their life.
  6. Corporate colleges are detrimental towards students' physical health. As stated in Parts 1 and 2, they run illegally in apartment blocks which are not designed for students to study in. Classrooms are often overcrowded and have poor ventilation. An astonishingly large percentage of students end up needing glasses because of the terrible lighting. Students are not allowed to participate in any physical activity, which brings with it the whole gamut of physical disorders. Benches are often packed right next to the blackboard, and those sitting in the front inhale tons of chalk dust. The normal practice of keeping a safe distance between benches and the blackboard is disregarded to stuff more students into a class. In many cases, students are physically beaten for poor performance or indiscipline, there have also been cases of sexual abuse which managements put under the carpet.
  7. Students coming out of corporate colleges lack even basic communication skills, which are essential in the 'real' world. Because of the system of gender segregation practiced, students find it very difficult to interact with members of the opposite sex, which carries over to professional college and proves to be a major problem in the future. Managements and even parents support this idea with the excuse that they are preventing any love affairs between girls and boys. This, at the age of 16 to 18, when love is but human. And even if they are doing that, a simple question tears their argument apart: 'Can a girl and a boy share no other relationship than that of an affair?'
  8. Physical health of students deteriorates rapidly in hostels, where they are served sub-standard food and are punished if they complain. Food poisoning is common but only a few cases are reported in the media.
  9. Sleep deprivation is a common tool used by these corporate colleges to get more marks out of students. They actively encourage students to sleep less to satisfy their greed. Students often spend well over 12 hours a day in colleges and are then given enough homework to last a few more hours on purpose. For them, a student's health matters much less, if at all, than the marks they can score. This leads to physical disorders that prove costly in the future.
  10. Corporate colleges follow the absurd mantra that 'the longer you stay in college, the better marks you get.' In reality, they are taking advantage of a basic human shortcoming - 'out of sight, out of mind' - that parents suffer from. They are tricked into believing that their child is being taught something in college, and they believe it because they cannot see the evidence against it. They are tricked into thinking that their child is happy and mentally and physically sound in college, because they cannot see otherwise. Thus, corporate colleges take advantage of this to force students into following an inhuman study schedule.

 

This list is just indicative, not exhaustive. Corporate college end up creating bad citizens: citizens who have lost faith in society because society could not save them from their trauma; citizens who do not care about law and order because it never helped them in anyway; citizens who are pushed into anti-social activities because they have no other way to vent their frustration; and citizens who collectively form an unhealthy society.

 

In Part 4, the last part, we conclude the series with some points on what needs to change in order to save our society from a grim future.

A Proud Moment

Over the past decade, there has been a marked shift in France's foreign policy towards India. From being just another country that bought a lot of weapons, India has emerged a major ally of France and there is an active exchange of culture between both sides.

 

Thus, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being invited as Guest of Honour on Bastille Day is a proud landmark in the history of these two nations. The sight of Indian soldiers of all three branches of the Armed Forces marching to the tune of Indian martial songs caught the world's attention. Indian soldiers, then British-Indian soldiers, fought for the allies on World Wars 1 and 2, and many other wars as well.

 

France's high ideals of liberty, equality and dignity are the core concepts of our Constitution, indeed, the French Revolution served as the ideological catalyst time and again during our Independence Struggle.

 

France has increasingly emerged as India's all-weather ally, supporting us in matters such as a Permanent UNSC seat and never blaming us for terrorist attacks on our own soil because of Kashmir (which our other 'ally' Britain does so regularly). This friendship can only go further from here, and the Indo-French relationship is going to be one of the most historic ones for centuries to come.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Part 2: Getting over Regulation

the_cursed_generationdiocumentary

 

 

 

 

 

In Part 1, we got an overview of how the Corporate Colleges of Hyderabad use a mixture of abuse and slow torture to milk students for their greed. In this part, we shall see how they get away with breaking numerous laws and avoid being caught by regulators.

 

A common feature of these corporate colleges is their high fees: it can go as high as Rs. 1.5 lakhs for two years, excluding the cost of books. All these colleges are highly profitable businesses and earn very large profits. A substantial portion of this money goes towards bribing officials so that they can continue with their unlawful practices. In addition, leaders of student unions are also bribed to keep them quiet.

 

BIE's Regulations

All corporate colleges are affiliated to the Board of Intermediate Education, AP (BIE). BIE's laws state that colleges affiliated to it must teach only the prescribed syllabus and may not teach for any competitive exam, except for the state CET in the last month or so. Every building owned by the college must be registered with BIE as well and they must follow the academic calendar as prescribed by BIE.

 

Corporate colleges break all the above guidelines. The prescribed syllabus is taught for an hour or two at best, and the board exam is only taken into consideration in the last week before the exam. All of them act as unrecognised coaching centres, which take students through an inhuman process, often called 'grilling' by the locals. Only one or two buildings are registered, while a 'campus' may have as many as 10 or even more buildings under it, all illegal.

 

Moreover, officials appointed by BIE to oversee the Practical examinations are almost always bribed to ensure that the top students get full marks. In 2009, BIE tried to stem this open secret with firm warnings but nonetheless, corporate colleges outperformed all other Junior Colleges in Practicals, which is ironic given the way they are taught, or not taught.

 

In 2009 again, after an illegal building of a corporate college collapsed and killed one student, the AP Government launched a drive to close down illegal buildings. But by means of bribe and political influence, only the unimportant buildings were closed down while the real problems were left untouched.

 

Last Choice

Corporate Colleges have successfully spread their propaganda among the residents of Hyderabad. By acquiring smaller colleges that follow rules, they have created a sort of monopoly, with the handful of colleges colluding with each other at the highest levels.

 

They have spread the false propaganda that Engineering and Medicine are the only courses available, and anybody who does another course will end up a pauper. Indeed, in Hyderabad, it is said that there is Engineering, there is Medicine and then there is failure! They have used propaganda to create the illusion that any engineer will earn a six-digit salary. This, to boost their own business. They even use Southern chauvinism, portraying themselves at the heroes of South India who are somehow bashing North India! It is not uncommon, in an attempt to gloss over failure, for them to publish full-page ads like 'Best in South India' or 'Making Telugus Proud.' Thus, a clever mix of propaganda and marketing helps them remain heroes in the eyes of the public.

 

Topper-Hunting

Some of the corporate colleges pay huge sums of money to the toppers of various exams so that they can publish their names in their ads. This is a clear case of cheating the public, but it is done with impunity. Thousands of children are saddled into these colleges thinking that the college will bring them a bright future, not their own hard work and talent.

 

Not Justified

Corporate colleges are regularly criticized for the their practices, but they always give the same answers: they are sending lots and lots of students to IITs, NITs and other Universities, hence they should be lauded, not criticized. But this argument fails on two counts.

 

First, the idea that IITs and NITs are somehow the ultimate goals of one's life was created by these colleges themselves. How many of our nation's great leaders were from the IITs and the NITs? If we have only engineers and doctors, how will the country function? Does it imply that students of BA, B.Com and B.Sc are somehow below their B.Tech/BE/MBBS counterparts? Is talent measured only by an objective test?

 

Secondly, the result does not justify the means. A student might get into IIT or AIIMS, but will he/she be a good citizen? How are corporate colleges contributing to the nation? By creating machines that can no longer think for themselves? By torturing students and pushing them towards smoking, drugs and even suicide? By torturing, abusing and harassing children? By depriving children of physical activity and fresh air? Is this the future we seek to build?

 

In the next part, we discuss the points against the corporate colleges and how out society is moving in a dangerous direction.

Friendship through Dreams

This is based on a dream I had last night. Names have been altered or turned into abbreviations. Please remember that dreams tend to be sketchy and vague, lacking a proper storyline and often reflecting a person's deepest thoughts. Words in red have been added to make the story coherent.

It's been years since I cycled. And now, for some reason, I had a new bicycle before me! So, I decided to take it for a ride on the busy road towards Prasads. It was early in the morning, so there weren't too many cars on that stretch.

I took a turn towards an unknown road and soon, I found myself outside a little colony of apartment blocks. There were some other people riding bicycles there, so I decided to go there. Then, it heard some voices on the second floor. Since it was early in the morning, there were few sounds and I could hear the voices clearly. They seemed familiar. Who could it be? I had to know where they came from. So, I went up to the second floor.

On the second floor, I entered a room. Nobody was there. But I bumped against a chair, alerting the voices nearby. They were coming for me. I had to escape. But how? I could not go out of the room and there was very little place to hide. I had to escape from the window. I climbed out and, thankfully, there was a narrow ledge that I could tip-toe on. I walked along the ledge as far as I could. The voices has reached the room, but I was already gone. Then, I reached the end of the ledge. The cyclists below had stopped moving and were looking up. I had to find a way to get out.

There was a pipe that went down the length of the building. I had to jump a bit to reach it. I jumped, and just caught the pipe. It was not very strong and could not carry my weight for long. Instead of climbing down, I tried to slide down. I slipped down the last few feet and fell on the grass below. I closed my eyes.

Then, somebody picked me up and... hugged me. I opened my eyes and saw AKS! I was stunned: this is where AKS lived? But before I could say anything, he said, "Good job. You did well." I tried to say something, but before that, somebody else hugged me. It was a tighter hug, as though this was a friend from long back. I looked up and, to my utter amazement, saw that it was MP! He was smiling back at me and said, "Good job." "I never thought that one day, I would be hugged by MP," I said.

We began to walk down the lane and were joined by another friend: TS. This was another surprise, as I couldn't even recognise her at first, until I noticed her nose, which looked exactly as it did when I had met her eight years ago. She smiled at me, I smiled back. "How are you, I asked?" She looked disturbed by the question, but came a little closer to me and whispered, "I'm married now." I looked shocked and asked her, "With whom?" She gestured towards MP. It made no sense to me, how MP and TS could have even met in the first place, but I didn't press further.

We reached TS and MP's house. It was small, but comfortable. I took a seat and we talked for a very long time. I didn't notice the time go by, for it was already late in the night. Then, TS, MP and AKS disappeared into a room. Before I could follow them, the power went out! It was pitch dark, except for a sliver of light coming from a room up front. I went to the room and saw someone on the bed. I moved the clovers a bit and saw MASH sleeping there. She was snoring lightly, so I knew she was alive. But where had the other three gone, and why was MASH here?

I groped my way around the house. It seemed much bigger in the dark than it had in the light. I couldn't check the time, but as I groped around in the dark, hours seemed to fly by and dawn seemed to be approaching. Finally, I discovered the room where TS, MP and AKS were. I went in, only to see them carrying something. It looked like a frying pan. Sure enough, as I came closer, I saw that it was indeed a frying pan and it had a poorly-made omelet in it. Before I could say anything, they left the room, looking rather perturbed, as though they had done something wrong, and went towards the room where MASH was sleeping. Perhaps it was for her breakfast?

I looked around the room: TS had decorated it to her liking. But I couldn't understand how they had made an omelet. The only electronic gadget here was a battery-powered lamp and a TV remote. I stayed for a few moments more, and decided to leave. I smiled at them, opened the door and let myself out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Part 1: The Concentration Camps










Hyderabad has, in the last few years, seen the mushrooming of numerous so-called Corporate Colleges, which are run by very large, profit-making companies. However, while they look like good economic ventures, their social cost is far too great.

Most, if not all, of these Corporate Colleges run in dilapidated, rented buildings, which were supposed to be apartment blocks and not educational institution. Moreover, the rooms are always filled far beyond their capacity, with three or even four students on a bench and benches occupying every inch but a little square for the lecturer to teach. Toilet facilities are woefully inadequate and 'canteens' usually consist of just a cupboard full of chocolates and chips. Many-a-times, an extra floor or two is built, flouting safety norms. There have been many cases where the illegal structures have collapsed and lives have been lost, but a combination of bribe and lobbying helped them put the matter under the carpet.

The corporate colleges have often been described as concentration camps, even in a Government report that, thanks to corporate lobbying, has only been seen through media leaks. Sports and literary activities are banned completely during college hours (which is usually as high as 16-20 hours a day). Classes can be extended at will and breaks can be cancelled without notice. The only thing fixed about the timings is that they are very long!

Methods
Corporate colleges employ a variety of methods to 'milk' their students, all of which are against the basic rights of children below the age of 18. Threats or harassment and physical abuse are so commonplace that most students actually get used to them and learn to live in a constant atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Moreover, these threats seldom remain so. As part of harassment, students are made to stay in college up to 10:00 PM or, in some cases, even later. There is no fixed agenda and students are simply told to 'study,' just as a form of torture. Physical abuse, except in some cases, is rampant, particularly among boys. Lecturers, who are under extreme pressure from the management to deliver, take to beating students for anything under the sun.

Schedule
AICTE norms state that colleges must work for a maximum of 6 hours a day. However, these corporate colleges of Hyderabad exceed that limit by a wide margin: 12 hours is easily the lower limit, with the upper limit going as high as 20 hours a day. The entire day is filled with studying and studying alone: there is no scope for character building, honing soft skills or even studying languages which are part of the Class 11 and 12 syllabus. The study schedule is full of tests and infamous 'study hours,' during which students are punished physically for not looking at their books and studying for even a minute. The schedule here is unjustified and inhuman, and is akin to slave labour. These corporate colleges do not care one bit about a student's emotional and physical well-being, they simply demand marks and results. Quite often, those who fail to deliver are saddled in the 'lower sections,' where they are given sub-standard education and are constantly harassed.

A dangerous feature of the system is the segregation of students on the basis of marks in a certain number of tests. Psychologists have already shown that such a system works against the ability of student to co-habituate in life. Contrary to popular belief, students are not inspired by their intelligent peers and often long to be re-united with their friends in other sections.

Hostels
The hostels of corporate are perhaps the worst examples of human rights violations in India. Students here do not know what the word 'holiday' means, they are made to study virtually forever, even while eating. Food quality is always substandard, and there have been several instances of food poisoning. Hostel students write thousands of exams and are roundly beaten for poor performance. Students here are not treated like human beings and often take up smoking, drugs and drinking to tide over the extreme stress. Suicide is also a common problem.

'Just for two years'
One of the biggest lies these corporate colleges use to justify themselves is the idea that after inhuman studying for two years, one need not study at all for the next four years and it will be a breeze. They actually go so far as to take the credit for moulding future professionals! Nothing can be further from the truth: undergraduate programmes require a lot of hard work and there are no jobs for those who 'just scrape through.' The system encourages students to dislike, or even hate, their future studies. In effect, it discourages students to study further, rather than encouraging them!

There are no sports, although as per Government rules, students are supposed to participate in sports. Fake certificates are printed and money is even collected in the form of fees in the name of games. Playing games is actively discouraged, or rather, it is banned. If students are found playing after college hours, they are scolded and humiliated the next day. The logic is that the student should only sleep and study, and reduce the time for the former as much as possible. There are no practicals and the practical exams for the boards are conducted under external examiners who are bribed to give high marks. Students rarely write their own records, choosing to pay upto Rs. 1,000 to have it outsourced. This is also a flourishing business!

Independent, inquisitive thinking is discouraged at all levels: students are encouraged to become parrots. Rote learning is the norm in all but a few cases. These corporate colleges do not provide real education: they run as family-held businesses and torture students to make more money. Our society is in danger and these institutions are getting stronger and stronger.

In the next part, we will discuss how these corporate colleges get over regulations and blatantly flout laws.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Deep Rot Within


Nearly a third of all students from IITs are from Andhra Pradesh, and a large percentage of them are from Hyderabad. The Cursed Generation, a four-part series, the last major series of the year on OTFS, will try to understand why Hyderabad has become a hub for the lucrative IITJEE coaching business, why illegal businesses flourish in the name of education using bribe and marketing techniques and what we are losing in the process.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Printing Money

QUESTION
Why can't we simply print more money and solve our problems?

ANSWER
Short version: Because it creates hyperinflation. Suppose XYZ company launches a new toy, which sells for $1 per unit. Suppose the company made just one of these toys and it is so popular that everybody wants it. Now, suppose you have a city with a population of 5 people, all of whom want to own this fabulous new toy but have absolutely no money. Suppose they are given $1 billion each, freshly printed, with no strings attached. So, now that each of them has a billion dollars each, surely they can all afford to buy the toy, right? Wrong. Since each of them has a lot of money, they will be ready to pay more than $1 to buy the toy. Eventually, the price of the toy will go up to $1 bn dollars or more, and none of them will be able to buy it. So, when $1 bn could buy a billion of those toys, it can buy just one now. See what happened? You printed money, but its value fell because it can no longer buy the same things. Effectively, you lost money!

That's hyperinflation: when prices rises at uncontrollable, extremely high rates. Hyperinflation makes money lose its value. Printing money only fuels hyperinflation, as people will be ready to pay more for the same things. Our planet has limited resources: there's just not enough to go around. It was easy to understand for a city of five, think of a country with millions of people. Printing money just makes matters worse.

Long version: Money is not a commodity, you can't print more of it if there isn't enough. Money is not just paper, it represents an underlying asset that has some value. Once upon a time, people felt that only gold or silver had any value, so money was made in gold or silver. As the economy grew, we understood that anything that we obtain from the earth has value, and even work performed by humans or animals has some value. That value is represented in terms of money. So, if you bought an object for $1, the dollar bill is a kind of substitute for the object: they both possess the same underlying value. But while the object alone possesses its own value, the dollar bill has no value without the object's existence.

Thus, printing money out of thin air only creates an illusion of wealth, while in reality it is not money at all, just paper! Money represents value, and to create more money, more value needs to be created: jobs, infrastructure, services etc.

Over the decades, many politicians, mostly of the right wing, have advocated the option of printing more money. Hitler did it too. But all of them faced doomed economies and great social unrest. Printing money is not the solution: creating real value, jobs and infrastructure is.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Preparing to leave for IIT Roorkee

My call letter from IIT Roorkee, which includes a rather voluminous set of forms to be filled, arrived today at around 2:00 PM. The letter is rather informal but it does tell me to arrive at the Saharanpur Campus of IIT Roorkee.

A lot of preparations, primarily buying clothes and other things, have already been done. The forms include a form to open an SBI or PNB account as well as an account with the Information Superhighway (aka the Intranet).

Looking forward to spending the next five years, on and off, in Saharanpur/Roorkee. For now, I've got a few hours' worth of forms to fill!

PS: Unlike IITM, IITR does not have a highly detailed medical form.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

AIEEE and BITS Allocation Declared

The Central Counselling Board (CCB), which conducts the counselling for students qualified in AIEEE-09, released the first round of course allocation yesterday on their website.

I have been allotted Chemical Engineering at NIT, Warangal.

Students who have not been allotted anything are eligible for the next round of counselling. Students who are interested in the seat allotted in the first round can go to their nearest Admission Centre and pay Rs. 25,000. They can also sign up to slide up their list.

BITS-Pilani declared the course allocation today for admission to programmes at their campuses at Pilani, Goa and Hyderabad.

I have been allotted Electronics and Communication Engineering at the Hyderabad Campus.

Those interested in the course allotted in the first iteration can pay the fee of Rs. 55,000 by DD to BITS, Pilani. See their website for more details. Students can also slide up their list during the next iterations.

Larger than Life Movie

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Producer: DreamWorks
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LeBeouf, John Turturro, Megan Fox and others
Rating: ***** (5 0f 5)

The IMAX posters described it as 'The Most Awaited Movie of the Year.' Now I know why. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (unofficially Transformers 2) picks up well from the first Transformers movie.

The US Army has created a new force called NEST, which assimilates humans and autobots. The defeated decepticons are hiding on different continents, occasionally cooking up trouble. The movie starts with a spectacular action sequence that depicts the destruction of Shanghai. In the meantime, Sam Witwicky's life goes back to normal as he heads for college.

But as the decepticons become more powerful and look to make a comeback, he is hurled back into the battle. The story of the decepticons becomes more clear, and we learn that Megatron is really working for one of the Optimus brothers! But for the rest of the story, you will have to see the movie.

The movie moves, a little clumsily, from various locations. However, the battle and explosion scenes in the deserts of Egypt are mind-blowing. The scenes atop the Pyramids of Giza and the American weapons add panache to the action scenes. The gigantic screen at IMAX makes them even better!

The technicians deserve full marks for the was they designed the Autobots and the decepticons. The costumes, especially Megan Fox's, were very good. And as usual, the music at the end of the movie was very good. Sam Witwicky looks a few years older than in the first movie, which means that the make-up artists got it just right.

Overall, this is a must-watch movie for all those who loved the first Transformers movie. A lot of questions are answered here, and the movie will definitely leave a mark on your mind.

Good Storyline, Engaging Movie

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Producers: DreamWorks and Paramount
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Tim Pocock, Julia Blake and others
Rating: **** (4 0f 5)

Wolverine has always been one of the most intriguing mutants in the X-Men series. A mutant whose body seemed to have been modified but who seems to have sprung up from out of nowhere, with no past at all! X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the story of Logan and his brother Victor, as they run together and fight great wars, only to separate and battle each other.

After Logan has a disagreement with his brother and fellow mutants, he leaves his life of war and hatred behind to start a quiet life with his school teacher love in the mountains of Canada. But Victor chooses another path: to track down other mutants and use their DNA to create the ultimate anti-mutant.

The most thrilling part of the movie is the scene where Logan's skeleton was modified to make it indestructible. The sheer intensity of Wolverine's thoughts as he had to bear inhuman pain, the silence that followed after he nearly died and his ferocity after emerging from the tank took my breath away.

Overall, the movie is very good: the story keeps the viewer engaged and the action scenes make them cheer. Hugh Jackman's acting is, as always, beyond comparison. He can turn from the soft-hearted Logan to the merciless Wolverine almost seamlessly.

I recommend you to watch this movie. It will be worth your time and money.

Turning 18

There are birthdays. And then there are 18th birthdays. Now that I've finally turned 18, there's just so much to look forward to. The next year will be life-changing: freed from the shackles of school discipline and the torturous training from coaching centres, I will now be entering the portals of college.

 

What do I look forward to? Well, one this is for sure: my Facebook friend count will exceed 400 (it has already exceeded 200!). A lot of new friends will be made. Where? Well, a few days back I thought it would be at IIT Roorkee, but now I think it will be at BITS, Pilani-Hyderabad Campus.

 

Of course, a lot of taboo things become possible once you turn 18: but let me not run in that direction.

 

There is a GHMC election coming up, but since I won't be in my ward, I might not be able to vote, thanks to the clauses in the Representation of People Act.

 

At the end, whether 18 or 81, life will go on. And the journey of life is what I'm looking forward to.

The Story of Sikkim

  sikkim_banner_story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

diocumentaryIntroduction

Sikkim is the second smallest state of the Indian Republic, after Goa. The state is Buddhist-majority and has been ruled by the same party for years, winning election after election. As much as Sikkim might seem as another vibrant state of India, its history is intriguing. From a small kingdom that made the mistake of supporting the English East India Company to being annexed by the mighty Independent India, Sikkim's story is fully of mystery and conspiracy.

 

In this documentary, we try to understand how the monarchy in Sikkim functioned, where it went terribly wrong and how Sikkim eventually became the 22nd state of India.

 

The Monarchy

Legend goes that one night, Prince Khye Bumsa of the Royal House of Kham of Eastern Tibet received a divine instruction in his sleep to travel southwards and seek his fortune. In 1642, his fifth generation descendant Phuntsog Namgyal became the first Chogyal, or King, of Sikkim. As a deeply religious Buddhist kingdom, the new King was consecrated by three revered Lamas.

 

However, over successive generations, the Kingdom faced many invasions. Starting with an invasion by Bhutan that was repelled with Tibetan aid to numerous invasions by the Nepalese, Sikkim began losing territory to Nepal, a process that ended only with the help of Chinese troops who could fight the fierce Gorkhas of Nepal.

 

When the East India Company seized control of a majority of neighbouring India, the rulers of Sikkim saw an opportunity. With the British looking to defeat the Nepalese, Sikkim allied itself with the British. This would prove to be an unwise decision, as the British began to illegally tax the Sikkimese region of Morang. In 1849, two British doctors, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker and Dr Archibald Campbell, began exploring Sikkim without permission and were arrested.

 

The arrests angered the British, who set forth to annex Sikkim's territory. Eventually, Darjeeling and Morang were annexed by British India in 1853 and, in 1890, all of Sikkim became a British protectorate with the Chogyal as the nominal head.

 

The Annexation

In 1947, after India attained Independence, a referendum held in Sikkim voted against joining the Indian Union. Subsequently, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to confer the status of a protectorate upon Sikkim. Under this special arrangement, matters such as foreign relations and defense were handled by India while Sikkim retained a great deal of autonomy. A state council was formed and a Government under the Chogyal was established.

 

The arrangement worked well under Nehru. However, things began to change when Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister. India was caught in the midst of the cold war: the mighty United States of America and the Soviet Union were at loggerheads. While India officially toed the line of Non-Alignment, it was all too clear that it was closer to the USSR than it was to the USA. At the height of Indira Gandhi's tenure, anti-Americanism peaked. Any American in India was considered a CIA agent; the Government was extremely weary of American influence, even as neighbouring Pakistan began to ally itself with the Americans.

 

In a strange turn of events, the Chogyal of Sikkim decided to marry for a second time. Only this time, his wife was American. This move angered Indira Gandhi and tensions began to rise. Meanwhile, the Sikkim National Congress, a powerful political party in Sikkim, started demanding greater representation for the Nepalese minority. Riots and clashes broke out in Sikkim and there was a deep sense of dislike towards the Chogyal. The Indian Government saw this as a move by the Americans to interfere in India's affairs.

 

Finally, in 1975, the Kazi (Prime Minister) of Sikkim went against the Chogyal and appealed to the Indian Parliament to change Sikkim's status to a full state of India. His appeal was approved. In April 1975, a 5,000-strong contingent of the Indian Army invaded Sikkim and surrounded the Chogyal's palace. His 300 bodyguards, who were themselves trained by the Indian Army, were caught and driven away, while one of them was shot. The Chogyal was arrested. In his last letter to Indira Gandhi, he wrote:

I have no words when the Indian army was sent today in a surprise attack on Sikkim Guards who are less than 300 strong and were trained, equipped and officered by the Indian army who looked upon each other as comrades. This is a most treacherous and black day in the history of democratic India in solving the survival of our little country by use of arms.

 

The Chogyal died under Indian surveillance, supposedly of a weak heart. The Sikkim National Flag was lowered and subsequently banned, being replaced by the Indian Tricolour. A referendum was held under which 59% of the electorate came out to vote. Of them, 97.5% approved a merger with India. However, historians strongly dispute the statistics provided by the Indian Government as well as the fairness of the referendum, which was conducted by the Indian Army. Nonetheless, Sikkim was merged with the Indian Union as its 22nd State.

 

Interestingly, the treaty which enabled the merger had a special clause inserted into it by India: the merger of Sikkim and India could never be disputed in any court of the land, including the Supreme Court. Of all the instruments of accession signed between various Princely States and the Indian Union, only this one contains this special clause. Details of what actions Indian Intelligence agencies took before the annexation, including the accession of Bhutan to the United Nations, remain sketchy, mostly because the Government classifies it as a state secret.

 

The Union

Today, Sikkim is like any other state of India. It is nominally headed by a Governor while executive power lies with the Chief Minister and his Cabinet, who belong to and are responsible to an elected unicameral State Legislative Assembly. Sikkim's flourishing economy is based on agriculture and tourism. Sikkim is one of the most peaceful states of India. It sends one member to each house of Parliament.

 

While the youth of Sikkim are firmly in favour of it remaining an Indian State, there is always the thought of how a quiet little Himalayan Kingdom turned into a battleground and was gobbled up by a much-larger country that had just freed itself from foreign rule. As they say, destiny plays strange games.

 

The Documentary series on OTFS returns with this enthralling narration. Keep watching this space for more thought-provoking stories.