Politics vs. Sports, Which Brexit Most Damaging

What a week for the United Kingdom. On one side England and Wales voted to leave European Union. Scotland voted to stay on. Now first minister of Scotland is comtemplating a referendum to gain independence from the United Kingdom. Thus the United Kingdom effectively has became a divided kingdom. To add insult to injury, English football team lost to Iceland.

Which one is more disturbing? Britain exiting European Union or England losing to Iceland? The Great Britain had ruled the world  till seventy years before, the fifth biggest world economy, a member of UN security council, a nuclear power, and a major power in global political system, yet Britain was unable to convince her own people that staying in European Union may be beneficial for the nation. 

Iceland on the other hand is a nation with 300000 people, a nation that has scored its first international goal in 2016, a nation that has  a part timer as manager of national football team, beat England a one time world champion. Defeat to Iceland is embarrassing for a big player in world soccer with an established football league and players with fat pay cheque.

Since I started watching football on TV, say around 1980s, I never found English playing exciting football exciting unlike the   Germans or Italians or Spaniards or even Portuguese. 

1. There were stars like Gary Lineker, David Beckham, Paul Gascoigne, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and now Wayne Rooney. There have been many others, I may have missed. Overall, most of these guys have shone in patches. They never stood up for big games. 

2. Whenever I see Germany or Italy on the pitch, they bring an unseen aura of invincibility. So does France sometimes, specially when Zindine Zidane was leading them. Spain did for a while during their golden era when they won Euro and World championship. But England never brings that kind of air. 

3. There is a lot of press and noise every time England comes to play. As a team England lack the aura and confidence of owning the field like any champion would. The team finds it difficult to score. Mostly they win by a narrow margin of one goal. Very often they concede goals. 

4. Compare English team to that of Italy. It is difficult to score against Italy. And, Italians defend a lead like their life is at stake. England conceded a goal after taking a lead. I guess it all comes down to coaching, tactics and pride. 

Coming after Brexit vote, loss to Iceland can be devastating. Consequences of exiting EU may be apparent in long term. Losing to Iceland will hurt pride of average English fans. But there is always tomorrow. Every shock wanes and every glory disappears. We wake up, dig deep and move on. May be England is an insipid football team, but life goes on. There are new talents in the England team. I am sure they will do well in the future. In India, we live with that kind of hope. We know the feeling. 

Indian NSG Bid, Nothing to be Embarrassed About

India, lead by prime minister Modi, made hectic effort to sway international political leaders to support India securing a seat in Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India came up against stiff opposition from China. Not only China questioned India’s credential as a nation that did not sign Non Proliferation Treaty, China also pushed case for candidacy of Pakistan. Eventually, membership of India was not discussed, at least not in the recent meeting. Though reports in media have suggested that a way may be found to facilitate India’s entry in NSG by the end of the year. This will be done despite objection / resistance from China.

As usual there have been different opinions in India on success and/or failure to obtain a seat in NSG. Some commentators have described China to be petty in her resistance. Others have blasted India for her sense of entitlement to be on NSG. I think we should consider the following points:

1. In international diplomacy on national interest is permanent. There is no permanent friendship or enmity. Every help comes with a price tag.

2. In this context, China stood by its ally Pakistan with whom it is creating a military and political alliance.

3. Pakistan has seen vivisection of Pakistani state and creation of Bangladesh.

4. China will never allow India to come out of South East Asia and play a global role.  China will work to balance India with Pakistan. 

5. So China cannot realistically support India’s entry into NSG, or for that matter in security council and other high global tables. 

6. To be fair India has stopped Chinese entry into SAARC. Though global importance of SAARC is very limited, yet the principle still holds. Moreover, Pakistan wanted desperately Chinese membership to counterbalance Indian influence.

7. India has allied with US and Japan to challenge Chinese dominance of South China Sea. India conducts military exercise with US and Japan. 

8. India has entered Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) with US help. China is not a member of the group. This has not gone down well in China, as is evident from media reports.

Given this scenario, it is unrealistic to hope China will help India to attain global high seat. Be it NSG or security council. Yet Chinese objection comes out as disingenuous when China equates India with Pakistan. It is crystal clear to everyone that Pakistan cannot be considered for a seat in NSG because of its past record in nuclear proliferation. Pakistan is a terrorist infested state. It is the only state that uses terrorism as an arm of state policy. There is no certainty about security of Pakistani nuclear materal or arsenal. By contrast, India has an impeccable record of nuclear security and nuclear nonproliferation. 
India has made an effort and engage with the world to present her case. India has tried to persuade naysayers and tried to change the world order. There is nothing to be embarrassed about our effort. Only defeatists and pessimists will ridicule India’s effort. To attain something, one may have to show boldness, irrespective of success or failure and be ready to pay the price. Is India ready to pay the price? Only time will tell.

Memory vs Application, Examination System Needs Revamp

Results of CBSE class XII is out. Scores have shot through the roof. Topper in science stream had scored 99.7% in aggregate of five subjects. That makes nearly 100% in science subjects of physics, chemistry, mathematics and English. Such a high score has created several problems for average students. 
i. Too many students are competing for too few potential opportunities. Be it professional courses or general science streams, number of seats are limited given the sheer number of students that pass out of board exams. 
ii. Cut off for choice subjects in Delhi University has become unattainably very high. 
iii. A lot of private universities have come up. Many are willing to give admission, many a time just looking at high school marks. But expense of studying in a private university of any repute is nearly 3 – 4 times that of a government run universities. 

Another debate that has emerged is that are high marks in board exams do justice to ability of students? Many a students that score very high marks in board exams, are unable to apply themselves.  It has been a common complaint that despite so many students coming out of academic institutes, there is shocking lack of innovators and original thinkers. Does this mean, our education has become mostly a memorising exercise? Is there no scope for application? 

I was watching a program on TV about high grades in our board examinations. 

i. Most panelists agreed that our education system is rote learning.
ii. It is also agreed that beyond a certain point more than the grades it is the application of knowledge that becomes important. Even students agree, grades open doors but beyond entry point one has to survive on their ability. 
iii. In a country like India where seat to applicant ration can be as high as 1 to 100, some degree of objectivity in marking is must to avoid arbitrary decision making. 
iv. Many students from under privileged background have found access to higher education through current education system. 

Society has a way of looking at students and their parents through a prism of grades, schools, colleges and jobs. Many people who have stood up to societal pressure and found their own drummers,  have become successful.  But most of us do not find our inner calling. We do not know what we like? We enter courses which we do not like, our parents may like them based on their assessment of success in life, yet continue with them. 

Ideally, we should follow what we like to do in life. Many of us do not develop many hobbies, many do not read books beyond course work, most of us are really horrible in our soft skills. No wonder, we do not produce likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others. I guess, there should be emphasis on application rather than rote learning. There is should be some emphasis of awareness of outside world, of literature, philosophy and softer aspect of life. What good is a professional with 100% marks in hard science but totally corrupt because of lack of value system?

Small Person in High Position

In life we meet people in positions of power. Many of them are their not because of merit. They are there, because they know right people. These people try to make up their incompetency by engaging in power games. An incompetent thesis supervisor makes irrelevant demand of student. Student is forced to comply because  supervisor has the authority of approving final thesis.

Chief of film censor board, Mr. Pahlaj Nihalani, fits the above description well. He was heard singing ” Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi” on national TV. Mr. Pahlaj Nihlani is a small man, not because of his size but because of his lack of stature among his peers. The position of chariman of film certification board has apparently gone to his head. Mr. Pahlaj Nihalani often forgets his job description that his department should certify films not censor them. Most recent controversy that has engulfed Mr. Nihlani is a film Udta Punjab. Film censor board of India has asked Anurag Kashyap to move Punjab from the title of his movie Udta Punjab. This is among many other cuts that has been proposed. 

I heard an interview of producer of Udta Punjab, Mr. Anurag Kashyap to NDTV. Mr Kashyap was desperate. His money was stuck. He cannot release his film without certification from board.  Nor can he proceed to next higher level, without knowing what were the problems of board. Film certification board was not ready to give its objections in writing.  When confronted by reporters Mr. Nihlani came up with lame excuse that report was ready but producers did not collect it. Same lame excuse a academic supervisor will give when confronted. I cringe when I see people like Nihlani. People like Pahlaj Nihalani in power is symbolic of everything that is wrong with India. He is bringing bad name to Mr. Modi and his policies. Get rid of these cretins.

Culling Wild Animals Abhorrent but Choices are Limited

A battle has erupted between environment minister Prakash Javdekar on one side, and noted animal right activist and central minister Ms Maneka Gandhi along with animal rights groups on the other. Issue at hand is permission granted by environment ministry to kill Nilgai in Bihar. Activists representing animal rights groups call killing of Nilgai in Bihar a massacre. They want minister of environment and forest to resign. Environment ministry says culling is allowed as per existing law of the land. Permission to contain number of wild animals are given as and when states ask for it. State governments of Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, have asked permission of ministry of environment and forest to contain number of wild boars, monkeys, Nilgais, porcupines etc. by declaring them as vermin  These animals  damage crops, attack people and generally create a menace. 

Many right thinking people have questioned if killing of animals is the right way to contain their number? Let me make it clear, I am against cruelty to animals. I do not like an animal being killed. I love to see wild animals in forests. I visit national parks to see wild animals. But my sympathy and empathy goes only so far. I want a safe distance between me and a rampaging wild monkey or for that matter any wild animal. To top it, I eat meat. I do not kill, but as long someone else does the dirty work, I have no problem eating meat. So I am a hypocrite like many others.

Governments have many people like me. They are good at heart but devoid of ideas. Faced with a dilemma of protecting hapless humans from rampaging animals, they take an easy way out. They advocate culling.  There are alternatives like use of solar powered electric fencing. In several states alternative measures have not really been very successful. Meanwhile, in many states wild animals damage crops and threaten population. In Tamil Nadu,   elephants destroy crops. Lion pride have been reported to attack villagers, their cattle and even forest guards in Gir forest of Gujarat. Man eating tigers snatch humans and cattles in Sunderbans of West Bengal. Wild rhesus monkeys snatch food, attack people and generally create a menace in many places. In Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat wild boars dig up cultivated lands. Nilgais and porcupines also cause damage to crop in many parts of India. 

Farmers that suffer from animal activity are poor. If government does not act in response to their distress, villagers are likely to take law in their own hand. There are reports of leopard being beaten and set on fire. In a resource starved country like India, there are not many options. Yet options have to be found both in short term and in long term to avoid man animal conflict. 

  • Ideally, humans should be stopped from encroaching in forests and animal territories. Rising population of humans in India is the real problem. Population control of humans is a distant dream and may not happen in short term. More so when politicians believe population is an asset. 

  • Compensating a farmer in a speedy manner for loss of cattle and farm produce may be an option. But in our country government machinery works slowly. Many farmers may find it is easy to kill animal than extract compensation from government.

  • Animals stray into human settlement in search of food and in the face of depleting forest cover. Approaches like use of energised fences or digging trenches have not really been very successful.  

  • Connect different reserve forests and create corridors for passage of animals from one forest to another. This may minimise animals straying into human settlements. 

  • In some developed countries, highways that pass through reserve forests are elevated with tunnels underneath for passage of animals. In India, trains passing through reserve forests run over animals. Though situation has improved greatly in Rajaji National park but trend continues in other parts of the country.

  • Create awareness and sensitivity about human animal conflict. Indians are reasonably tolerant about any life form. Still when livelihood is threatened, people may lose sense of balance.

  • Sterilisation of animals may be a good option. It is done regularly on stray dogs in some Indian cities. But who will sterilise a bull elephant or a lion? 

  • In a state like Himachal Pradesh which has almost 50% forest cover still see monkey menace. Monkeys attack humans for food, often bite people and create nuisance in general. Depleting habitat may not be a problem here. Easily availability of food in cities may be bigger problem. It is advisable not to feed wild animals, dispose garbage scientifically without dumping it in the open. Practice of such civic sense may be hard to expect in India.

Animal right activists too must exhibit a balanced view between human and animal rights. I recently heard a noted animal activists lamenting how hungry monkey mothers have to carry their babies when they go searching food.  She forgot to mention that monkeys have been doing this since eternity. They do not leave their babies in a creche when they go out to work.

Culling may be abhorrent, it can reduce the number of animals in short term. Culling may disturb delicate balance in wildlife between species unless done in a scientific manner. Actually, rise in species of certain animals may be an indication of such disturbed balance.

Inside Ranthambhor Tiger Reserve, Tiger Sighting Finally

I went for second morning safary with a lot of trepidation. I have seen a lot of wildlife.  I have seen a tiger. But I did not have a picture of tiger. I was picked up by canter from the lodge. By the way, I did not get a gypsy. On a hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise.

We went past forest gate after completing routine formalities. After crossing second gate of the fort, we arrived at a bifurcation. One track went to zone 2. Another to zone 3. Suddenly, we saw spotted deers running and galloping frantically. A canter was standing still. Every visitor was looking intently towards the forest. Our guide confirmed presence of a tiger. We learnt, passengers in canter ahead had seen tiger making a kill. One person had shot the event in his cell phone camera.

We got our turn when canter ahead of us moved on. Almost everyone climbed up on their seat to catch a glimpse. Guide  kept telling that the tiger was right there. But most of us could not see anything. Even using zoom lens, one could see a yellow hue but nothing else. Then all of a sudden the tiger stood up. There it was, king of jungle caught in my camera. We were told it was Paqman, one of the resident males.

Everyone in the canter took turn to watch the tiger. We waited there in the hope that the tiger might make a move. It did not emerge from the bush. May be it was guarding its kill. We had spent three fourth of our time in the forest. Driver said we must return.

In the evening, I came back to the same junction. This time I was to go to a different zone. As our canter came out in open, we saw people from another zone peering into a bush. A sambhar deer was barking at a distance. Guide said there is tiger. We even saw a tiger under the tree. But it entered a bush nearby and became invisible. Occasionally, we would hear it pulling something. Some time we would see its tail thrashing. But tiger was no where to be see.

After a while, most visitors got frustrated and left. But we made a decision. A tiger was there for certain. So we must wait. In the end, after most vehicles had left, tiger came out of the bush and leisurely walked into a body of water. It was right opposite to where our canter was waiting. May be tiger had pity on me and let me photograph itself.

We spent all our allocated time in the same place watching the tiger. As for me, I had shot a tiger using my camera. I can tell anyone that cares to ask. I shall be back next summer.