Sunday, 30 November 2014

Shiva Shambho

Shiva Shambho
 यद्यपि बहुनाधीशे तथापि पठ पुत्र व्याकरणं
स्वजनः श्वजनो मा भूत , सकलं शकलं सकृच्छकृत
 This is a shloka in Sanskrit
A father is telling his son
 " O son, although you have studied a lot, still you must now learn grammar. If you study grammar, you will not pronounce ' svajan ' as ' shvajan ',  'sakalam 'as ' shakalam ' and ' sakrit ' as ' shakrit '.
In Sanskrit, ' svajan ' means one's own people, while ' shvajan 'means a dog. ' Sakal ' means total, while ' shakal ' means a piece. ' Sakrit' means once, while ' shakrit ' means excrement or shit.
   I often hear people saying jila, instead of zila, jaroor, instead of zaroor, jamaana instead of zamaana, gajal, instead of ghazal. Once in the Allahabad High Court a lawyer referred to a colleague of mine as Justice Reja, instead of Justice Reza.
  Once when I was a Judge in the Allahabad High Court, a lawyer appeared before me, and said he was moving a ' petisun ' ( pronouncing 'sha' as 'sa' ). I asked him whether he believed in Lord Shiva. He said yes. I then told him " Then say ' Shiva Shambho, Shiva Shambho, Shiva Shambho ' 100 times in the morning everyday before coming to Court ".
  When  such mispronunciation is done in my presence, I feel as if someone has hit me on the head with a stick

A Scary Portend

The daylight robbery of Rs.1.5 crore at an ATM kiosk on Bungalow Road in Roopnagar, North Delhi is in my opinion a portend of the days to come.Such an incident can be directly attributed to the massive unemployment facing the country and the crass commercialization and  'get rich soon ' culture prevailing in India.

  It is reported that 1 crore new youth are entering the job market in India each year, but only 5 lac new jobs are created annually in the organized sector of our economy ( see my article  "Unemployment in India ' and Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala's comment on my facebook page and my blog ). What are the remaining 95 lacs  to do ? Some of them may become street vegetable vendors, hawkers etc, but even  such insecure low paid work cannot absorb all such unemployed.

 The inevitable result is bound be a spurt in crime nationwide.

   Jobs are created on a large scale when the economy is rapidly expanding, in other words when there is rapid and large scale industrialization, but how can there be large scale rapid industrialization when the masses have little purchasing power ? After all, the goods manufactured have to be sold, but how can they be sold when the masses are poor, and barely have money to buy even essentials like food and medicines ? Therefore our economy is, and is likely to remain, stagnant for a long time.

  " High unpredictable winds and misfortunes are in the sky "
  ( old Chinese adage )

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Languages of India

There are many languages in India. Some of these are the main languages e.g. Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Oriya, Assamese, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujrati, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Urdu, etc
 However, there are also other languages like Kashmiri, Dogri, Maithili, Bodo, Gondvi, Santhali, Tulu, Toda, Avadhi, Magahi, Khasi, Bhojpuri, Mewari, Marwari, Kumaoni, Garhwali, Lepcha, Bhutia, Munda, Koya, Savara,Chenchu, Kurukh, Duhan, Bundeli, Sadani, Sara, Kondh, Painte, Mizo, languages of Nagaland, Kokborok, Koch, Rajvanshi, Jaintia, Adi, Bhil, Tenydyie, Sindhi, Manipuri, Abujmaria, Aka, Allar, Garo, Aariya, Tsangla, Saurashtri, Gadaba, Chakma, Kol, Khampti, Jarawa, Onge, Sentinelese, Asuri, Aranadan, Arakh, Anga, Andh, Amwi, Alu, Eravalla, Tiwa, Vagriboli, Dimasa, Hmar, Karbi, Angami, Baitei, Deuri, Kebui,, Ao, Konyak, Metei, Mech, etc.

 These languages which are not so well known also have a great literary heritage. Their literature is often called the ' alternative literature ' of India , or ' the second stream of India's literary heritage '.
 Many of these languages do not have a written script, and often rely on oral and tribal traditions, including songs, legends and tales. But that is no reason for looking down on them. Their literature is part of the great treasury of Indian culture, and must be given equal respect to the literature in the better known languages.

  According to a 2010 UNESCO report, many of these languages fall under the vulnerable or endangered categories.

   According to the Bhasha Research and Publication Center, Vadodara, India has already lost 20% of its languages in the past 5 decades. In the early 1960s India had 1100 languages, out of which 220 have disappeared.

 According to the People's Linguistics Survey of India, 17 tribal languages spoken in pockets of Tamilnadu are in danger of extinction. Of these, 13 are now spoken by less than 10,000 people. Eravalla, a tribal language spoken in the Annamalai region of the Western Ghats is no longer used by the younger members of the tribe.

 This is a very sad state of affairs. We make great efforts to preserve wild animals from extinction ( and rightly so ), but how much effort do we make to preserve our native languages, particularly of tribals who were the most ill treated in our country ?.

  We must make all efforts to ensure that these languages and their literature do not die out, but instead they develop and flourish. Their literature represents the hopes and aspirations of the people who speak these languages.

 In a country like India with so much diversity ( see my article ' What is India ? ' on my blog  and on the website ) all languages, and of people of all regions and religions, must be given equal respect if we wish to remain united.

 These lesser known languages, many of which are spoken by tribals or adivasis ( the original inhabitants of India, as I have explained in my article ), need administrative and financial support, as they ordinarily do not get patronage from the governments or other organizations, like the better known languages. It is the duty of everyone, whether in the government or outside it, to give such help and support, so that the rich heritage in these languages, which belong to all Indians, does not die out but instead flourishes

Indo-Pak Relations

Those who talk of improving relations between India and Pakistan are living in a fool's paradise. They are deceiving others and deceiving themselves.
The truth is that there can never be good relations between India and Pakistan ( which is a fake, artificially created entity ), because the very purpose of creating Pakistan as a theocratic state was that Hindus and Muslims should keep fighting each other, and thereby (1) India ( of which Pakistan is really a part ) may not emerge as a modern, highly industrialized country, like China, for which it has all the potential, and thus become a rival to Western industries, and (2 ) Massive arms sales to the subcontinent may continue, thus ensuring huge profits to Western arms industries ( India presently imports arms worth over 40 billion dollars annually, and Pakistan also imports a huge amount ).

Sanskrit or German

I have been one of the strongest supporters of Sanskrit, as it is our great all India cultural language, and great injustice has been done to it.
 In my article ' Sanskrit as a language of Science ' ( see on my blog and on the website ) I have sought to remove the misconception about it that it is only a language for chanting mantras in rituals, but was really a language of free thinkers who thought and wrote on philosophy, science, mathematics, law, literature, grammar, interpretation, etc
  That having been said, the truth is that Sanskrit has hardly any practical utility today for our youth.Today, young people in India want jobs, and knowledge of Sanskrit can hardly be of any help in getting a job.
   On the other hand, knowledge of English, German, French, Mandarin, etc can help a person in getting a job, in India or abroad. That is why so many students opted for German rather than Sanskrit in our Kendriya Vidyalayas.
In my opinion the HRD Ministry's decision requires reconsideration

Friday, 28 November 2014

To All Pakistanis and to all Kashmiris

 Many of the problems in our sub continent today are because we were befooled and taken for a ride by the Britishers by their wicked divide and rule policy, and the bogus, phony and fraudulent two nation theory, and making Hindus and Muslims think that they are enemies of one another, and must live separately. Many of our people of the previous generations were deceived and emotionally carried away by this historical swindle, which led to the Partition of 1947, and the consequences, due to which we are suffering terribly even till this day. Unless we see through this gigantic fraud and reunite under a strong, secular, modern minded government which does not tolerate religious extremism, whether Hindu or Muslim, and crushes it with an iron hand, we will keep suffering.

 The truth is , as I have been repeatedly saying, that Pakistan is no country. It is a fake, artificial entity created by the British so that Hindus and Muslims keep fighting each other, and thus India ( of which Pakistan is really a part ) does not emerge as a modern, powerful, highly industrialized and prosperous country, like China, of which it has now all the potential with its huge pool of bright and highly competent engineers, technicians, scientists, and managers, and immense natural resources.

  This does not mean that I am against the Pakistani people. I am a humble disciple of the great French political philosopher Rousseau, who believed that people are good by nature. So I believe that 99% of Pakistanis, like 99% Indians, are good by nature, and they are facing basically the same problems as Indians, of terrible poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, lack of healthcare and good education, etc. But they are simple people who can be misguided by wicked persons with vested interests, often acting through their agent provocateurs.

 What is the truth ? The truth is that Pakistanis ( and Kashmiris ) are really Indians. This does not mean they are Hindus. It means that we share the same multi-religious culture.

 What is Pakistan ? It is Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and NWFP. These were all part of India from the time of the great Emperor Ashoka ( whose edicts are still found there ), in Mughal times, and under British rule. We were befooled by the Britishers into thinking we are enemies, but how much longer must we remain befooled ? How much longer must blood flow ?

  See what the result of creating a theological state ( Pakistan ) has been. First the non Muslims have been persecuted ( in blasphemy cases, forcible conversion, etc ). Ahmadis were persecuted because allegedly they did not believe that Muhammad was the last Prophet. Shias are persecuted because they do not accept the first three Khalifas. Even Sunnis who are Bareilvis are persecuted because they go to dargahs, which are shrines built on the graves of Sufi saints, and are therefore regarded as places of idolatry by the Wahabi type fanatics. Recently reports came of a poor Christian couple burnt alive on a false charge of blasphemy. Ahmedis and Shias are regularly killed. Asia Bibi, a Christian and a mother of 5 children was sentenced to death on a blasphemy charge, and her sentence has been shamelessly upheld by the High Court in Pakistan.

 If Hindus practice idolatry ( which is forbidden by Islam ), if Ahmadis do not believe that Prophet Muhammad was the last Prophet,  if Shias do not accept the first three Kahalifas, and if people go to dargahs, are they breaking anyone's head or cutting off anyone's limbs ? In a sub continent of such diversity as ours tolerance is absolutely necessary if we wish to progress. Let anyone believe whatever he/she wishes to believe. It does no harm to anyone.

 Some of my Kashmiri brethren ( I am a Kashmiri myself, and love all Kashmiris, whether Muslim, Hindu or Sikh ) have been misguided into demanding separation from india, or independence. This is totally unacceptable. Kashmir has been part of India ever since it was incorporated into the Mughal Empire in 1586 by the great Emperor Akbar

If Kashmir leaves India today, then the Nagas may demand the same right tomorrow, then the Mizos, Tamilians, Maharashtrians, etc. Where will this lead to ? India will break up. No,such a demand must never be acceded to. It is totally short sighted and misguided, and its leaders are people with vested interests and their own agenda, which will only lead to catastrophe. So Kashmiris must now give up such demands , and instead demand reunification of India and Pakistan ( and Bangladesh ) under a strong secular, modern minded, federal system. This will automatically solve the problem of Kashmir.

  To explain all this I had written an article which was published in the Pakistani newspaper ' The Nation ' some time back. It is reproduced below.

The Truth about Pakistan

“Dekho mujhe jo deeda-e-ibrat nigah ho,
 Meri suno jo gosh-e-naseehat niyosh hai.”
– Mirza Ghalib

According to reports, Pakistani cities - Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, etc - are rapidly becoming killing fields, with bomb blasts and gun firing a regular occurrence, and ethnic violence between Sunnis and Shias, and persecution of minorities escalating. Nobody knows that when he steps out into the streets of these cities whether or not he will return alive. A beautiful metropolitan city like Karachi is becoming, if it has not already become, a Jurassic Park

Some Pakistanis believe that the present situation in Pakistan is due to “a failure of governance, not of the nationhood.” I respectfully beg to differ.

In my opinion, the present violent strifes and disturbances in Pakistan are the logical and inevitable result of creating a theocratic state in this subcontinent of such diversity, and, hence, the only solution is the reunification of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh under a strong, secular, modern minded government, which does not tolerate religious extremism and bigotry, whether Hindu or Muslim, and crushes it with an iron hand.

To explain my point, I have to delve into history. As explained in my article, “What is India”, in my blog: as well as in the video on the website:, India (in which I include Pakistan and Bangladesh) is broadly a country of immigrants like North America. The ancestors of 92 to 93 percent people living today in our subcontinent were not the original inhabitants here, but came from outside, mainly from the northwest (the original inhabitants being the pre-Dravidian tribals). People migrate from uncomfortable areas to comfortable areas, and India was a paradise for agriculture, with level land, fertile soil, plenty of water for irrigation, etc. Why should anyone living in India migrate to say, Afghanistan, which is cold, mountainous  covered with snow for several months in a year , and very uncomfortable? Hence for thousands of years people have been pouring into India, mainly from North West ( though also from the North East ). It is for this reason that India has so much diversity - so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, etc because each group of immigrants brought their own language, religion and customs with them.

Hence, the only policy that can work in our subcontinent is secularism and equal respect to all communities and sects. This was the policy of the great Emperor Akbar, whom I regard (along with Ashoka) as the greatest ruler the world has ever seen. At a time when the Europeans were massacring each other in the name of religion (Catholics massacring Protestants and vice versa), Akbar, who was far ahead of his times, declared his policy of Suleh-e-Kul, i.e. Universal Toleration of all Religions, and it is because of this wise policy that the Mughal Empire lasted so long. It was Emperor Akbar who laid the foundation on which the Indian nation is still standing, his policy being continued by Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues who gave India a secular constitution.

Up to 1857, there were no communal problems in India. All communal riots and animosity began after 1857, artificially engineered by the British through their agent provocateurs. No doubt even before 1857, there were differences between Hindus and Muslims, the Hindus going to temples and the Muslims going to mosques, but there was no animosity. In fact, the Hindus and Muslims used to help each other; Hindus used to participate in Eid celebrations, and Muslims in Holi and Diwali. The Muslim rulers like the Mughals, Nawab of Awadh and Murshidabad, Tipu Sultan, etc were totally secular; they organised Ramlilas, participated in Holi, Diwali, etc. Ghalib’s affectionate letters to his Hindu friends like Munshi Shiv Naraln Aram, Har Gopal Tofta, etc attest to the affection between Hindus and Muslims at that time

In 1857, the ‘Great Mutiny’ broke out in which the Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. This shocked the British government so much that after suppressing the Mutiny, they decided to start the policy of divide and rule (see online “History in the Service of Imperialism” by B.N. Pande). All communal riots began after 1857, artificially engineered by the British authorities. The British Collector would secretly call the Hindu Pandit, pay him money, and tell him to start speaking against Muslims, and similarly he would secretly call the Maulvi, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Hindus. This communal poison was injected into our body politic year after year and decade after decade.

In 1909, the ‘Minto-Morley Reforms’ introduced separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims. The idea was propagated that Hindi is the language of Hindus, while Urdu of Muslims (although Urdu was the common language of all educated people, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh up to 1947). All this vicious propaganda resulted in the Partition of 1947, which created a fake, artificial theocratic nation called Pakistan.

Nation states arose in Europe around the 15th century because of the rise of modern industry. Modern industry, unlike feudal handicraft industry, requires a big market for its goods and a large area from where it can get raw materials.

The creation of a state based on religion destroys the very basis of a nation, because it cuts off industries from markets and raw materials. British imperialism created India as a big administrative unit. The British policy was to prohibit the growth of heavy industry in India; otherwise, the Indian industry, with its cheap labour, would have become a powerful rival to British industry.
When the British left India, they divided us so that we may remain backward and weak, and not emerge as a modern powerful industrial state (for which we have all the potential). This was the real reason for creating Pakistan.

I submit that Pakistan was doomed from its very inception; firstly, because there is such tremendous diversity in our subcontinent that only secularism can work here and secondly, because a modern nation cannot be based on religion (because this will cut it off from its markets and raw materials).
 Some people say that we should try to improve relations between India and Pakistan,instead of challenging the very raison d’etre of Pakistan. In my opinion such people are living in a fool's paradise. There can never be peace between India and Pakistan. Pakistan was created on the basis of the bogus two nation theory so that Hindus and Muslims keep fighting each other.

  This serves two purposes. Firstly, it prevents India ( of which Pakistan is really a part ) from emerging as a modern industrial giant, like China, for which it has all the potential, and thus become a rival to Western industry. Secondly, it ensures that the Western arms industries have huge sales ( India is the largest importer of arms in the world, over 40 billion dollars annually, and Pakistan also a huge amount ).

  If there are genuine good relations between  India and Pakistan, then the very purpose of creating Pakistan will disappear

I am confident that with time people, both in India and Pakistan, will realize the truth in what I am saying, and India and Pakistan will reunite under a strong, secular government that deals with religious extremism, whether Hindu or Muslim, with an iron hand.

Secularism does not mean that one cannot practice his own religion. It means that religion is a private affair, unconnected with the state which will have no religion.

When I meet my Pakistani friends (and I have lots of them), we speak in Hindustani, we look like each other, and feel no difference between ourselves. We were befooled by the Britishers into thinking that we are enemies, but how much longer must we remain befooled? How much longer must blood flow in religious violence in Quetta, Karachi, Gujarat, Kashmir etc.

 When I sent my article for publication in Pakistan some peole doubted whether any Pakistani newspaper would publish my article challenging the very existence of Pakistan. I replied that I did not care whether it would be published or not, but I will not deviate from what I believe is the truth.
 In Sanskrit, there is a saying, “Satyamev Jayate”, which means “truth ultimately triumphs”. And as Nietzsche said in “Thus Spake Zarathustra”: “What matter about thyself, Zarathustra! Say thy word and break into pieces!”

The Four People's Principles

Today our country India is facing massive problems---75% of our people are living in horrible poverty, with high unemployment, skyrocketing prices, massive problems of healthcare, malnutrition, education, housing etc. 48 farmers have been committing suicide on an average every day, and 47% of our children are malnourished, a figure which is over 10% higher than in countries of sub-Saharan Africa e.g. Ethiopia and Somalia.

Our national aim must be to abolish these evils and make our country highly prosperous for all our citizens.

To address the nation’s problems, Four People’s Principles (following Sun Yat Sen’s Three People’s Principles) are being submitted, which in my opinion should be our guiding principles for solving India’s problems. These are:
1. Science 2.Democracy 3. Livelihood, and 4. Unity of the People

When our country was on the scientific path it prospered.  With the aid of science we had built mighty civilizations thousands of years ago when most people in Europe (except in Greece and Rome) were living in forests. We had made outstanding scientific discoveries e.g. the decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine, etc. We had solved the problem of town planning 5000 years ago in the Indus Valley Civilization, with covered drains, sewage system, etc (something which is lacking even today in most cities in India). However, we subsequently took to the unscientific path of superstitions and empty rituals, which has led us to disaster.

The way out for our nation is to go back again to the scientific path shown by our great ancestors – the path of Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, Sushrut and Charak, Ramanujan and Raman, Panini and Patanjali.

I am not going into detail about our great scientific achievements (for details see ‘Sanskrit as a Language of Science on the website I have only referred to it to prove that there is nothing inherently inferior in us.

However, today there is no doubt that we are far behind the Western countries in science and technology, and that is the real cause of our poverty and other social evils.

We must therefore spread science on a massive scale to every nook and corner of our country. And by science I do not mean physics, chemistry and biology alone. I mean the entire scientific outlook. We must spread rational and logical thinking among our masses and make them give up backwardness and superstitions. The entire mindset of our masses, who are presently steeped in casteism, communalism and superstitions must be changed, and made scientific.

 Also, by science I do not mean the natural sciences alone, I also include the social sciences. Today a worldwide recession is going on, and this can only be solved by scientific understanding and scientific solutions of our economic problems.

2. Democracy

Some people say that democracy is not good for India. I totally disagree. The problem in India is not that there is too much democracy but too little. We need more democracy, not less, and that means educating the masses, raising their cultural level, and involving them actively in the task of national reconstruction.

It may be mentioned that democracy and science go hand in hand. Scientific growth requires certain supportive values viz. freedom to think, to criticize, and to dissent, tolerance, plurality, and free flow of information. These precisely are the values of a democratic society


The third great people’s principle is livelihood for the masses.

Today 75% people in India are poor, and there is massive unemployment, malnutrition, lack of healthcare, housing, good education, etc. and exorbitant price rise

What we have noticed in the last 25 years or so is that the rich have become richer, and the divide between rich and poor has greatly increased. The economic growth in India has benefited only a handful of people. Unless this trend is stopped it will be disastrous for the country.

As the great French thinker Rousseau wrote:
“It is obviously contrary to the law of nature for a handful of people to gorge themselves on superfluities while the starving multitudes lack the necessities of life.”  (Rousseau: Discourse on the Origins of Inequality)

We must, using our creativity, find out ways of raising the standard of living of the masses. Ultimately, that is what matters. Whether the system we adopt is called capitalism or socialism or communism or any other ism, the real test is whether the standard of living of the masses is going up under that system or not. Surely a system in which a quarter million farmers commit suicide in the last 15 years and vast masses live in abject poverty and suffer from chronic unemployment, malnutrition, and lack of healthcare and good educaion is totally unacceptable.

Before the Industrial Revolution, which began in Western Europe in the 18th Century, there was feudalism everywhere, and in the feudal system the methods of production (the bullock in India and the horse in Europe) were so primitive that very little wealth was generated, and so only a handful of people could be rich while the rest had to be poor. When the cake is small obviously few people can eat it.

In contrast, modern industry is so powerful and so big that enough wealth can be generated to meet the basic needs of everyone. This being so, now no one need be poor. Therefore it is our duty to ensure that no one today remains poor, unemployed, sick, hungry, illiterate or homeless.

4.Unity of the people

India is a country of great diversity having a large number of castes, languages, religions, ethnic groups, etc., because it is broadly a country of immigrants (see the article  ‘What is India’ on my blog and on the website So the only policy which will work here is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities, races, languages, castes, etc. This was the policy of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar, who gave equal respect to all communities and sects. It is this policy which was continued by Pt. Nehru and his colleagues who created our secular Constitution.

 It is our duty to preserve our unity despite all our diversity, and despite the efforts of some people who try to divide us

  All patriotic, modern minded people are called upon to make these Four People's Principles a reality, so that India emerges as a modern, powerful, highly industrialized and prosperous country, in which all our people get a decent life and a high standard of living.

Unemployment in India

In a centre spread article published today ( 25.11.2014 ) in the Hindi newspaper ' Dainik Jagaran ' Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala, the well known economist and columnist, writes that every year about 1 crore young people enter the labour market in India, but only 5 lac jobs are created per year in the organized sector of the Indian economy. The other 95 lacs are ekeing out a livelihood by selling vegetables, etc.
 Unless this situation is remedied it could lead to social strife

Malnourishment in India

According to World Bank estimates, India ranks very high among the countries having malnourished children.

A UNICEF report states that one third of the world's malnourished children live in India. Malnutrition is more common in India than in sub-Saharan Africa. 45% Indian children are underweight due to malnutrition. Many of these are severely malnourished. 50% childhood deaths are due to malnutrition. A Global Hunger Index ( GHI ) Report, 2011 ranks India high among the countries having a hunger situation.

Malnutrition in childhood has serious, long term consequences, because it impedes motor, sensory, cognitive and social and emotional development of a child. Malnourished children are less likely to perform well in school, are at greater risk of disease, and are more likely to die an early death.

The UNICEF Report also says that anaemia affects 74% Indian children under the age of 3 years, and more than 90% adolescent girls and 50% women. Iodine deficiency, which reduces learning ability, is widespread in India, because fewer than half the Indian households use iodized salt. Vitamin A deficiency, which causes blindness, and increases morbidity and mortality among small children, is also common in India.

I am not going into the other issues of unemployment, healthcare, price rise, housing, etc, facing the nation, and have limited myself to the problem of malnutrition

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair ( Charles Dickens : A Tale of Two Cities ).

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Death of Dr. Kotnis


There has been talk of astrology lately, and some people asked my opinion about it.
In my opinion astrology is pure superstition and humbug, and if India is to progress we must give up superstition  and develop the scientific outlook.

Even a little rational thought will lead to that conclusion. How can the movement of the stars, the planets and other heavenly bodies determine whether one will become an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, etc. or whether one will die at the age of 50 or 80 ? There is no connection between the two.

It is true that the vast majority of our people, perhaps over 90% ,believe in astrology. But that does not prove anything. The majority are often wrong. At one time the vast majority of Christians believed in the theory of Ptolemy that the sun goes around the earth instead of the other way around because the Bible apparently supported that view, and scientists like Galileo faced persecution for supporting the theory of Copernicus that the earth revolves around the sun. Later, the theory of Copernicus was found to be correct. Many people denounced Darwin for his theory of Evolution as it was believed to be against the Bible. As late as in 1925 an American teacher, John Scopes, was prosecuted in the famous ' monkey trial ' in an American state for teaching Darwin's theory.

   When I went to take oath as Chief Justice of Madras High Court I was told that I should not take oath at the 'rahukaalam' tiime ( inauspicious time, according to astrology ). The vast majority of Tamilians, who are otherwise very intelligent people, believe in rahukaalam, as I learnt later when I was in in Tamilnadu.One senior Supreme Court lawyer, who was earlier practising in Madras High Court, told me that when his clients, most of whom are educated, come from Tamilnadu  they request him to start reading their brief at a time which is not 'rahukaalam' time.

 And this belief is not confined to Tamilnadu alone. It is prevalent almost all over India. Many Ministers, Judges, etc. take oath at the 'auspicious' time, and consult their astrologer for finding out the auspicious date and hour. Marriages are often finalized after seeing the 'janam kundali' of the boy and girl, and fixed on an 'auspicious' date after consulting the Panditji. ' Grah pravesh '( entering a new house ) is done after consulting an astrologer for an 'auspicious' date. Many people wear certain gems on their necks or rings on the finger in accordance with the 'raashi' ( to ward off evil influences of 'shani', etc ).

  Why do so many people believe in astrology ? After all, they are not crazy. Even many eminent scientists believe in it.

  The reason is that the chance factor is still a very powerful factor in our lives. We plan one thing, but something else happens. Thus we are often unable to control our lives. So we start believing that there is some supernatural force controlling our lives.

  But that is not so. It is because of the low development of science as yet in the world, as compared to what it will be a 100 or two 200 years hence, that we are unable to control our lives.

 As of today, science is still very undeveloped and at an embryonic stage. After 100 or 200 years from now it will have developed tremendously, and then we will be able to largely control our lives, and then what we plan will usually happen.

 It is said that many scientists believed in astrology. But that is not because astrology is a true science, but because for a long period scientific and unscientific ideas will often co-exist in the same person. For instance, Newton, one of the greatest scientists in the world, believed in alchemy and occult, which are nonsense and unscientific.

  I know that I will be attacked furiously by many for what I have said above, but that does not matter. I will say what I believe to be in the interest of my country, even if I am a solitary voice and even if I am castigated by many. It is in the interest of my country that superstitions be attacked and a scientific temper developed if we wish to progress and solve our country's massive problems. Science alone is the way out for our country if we wish to abolish poverty, unemployment, malnutrition ignorance and healthcare problems, and emerge as a modern, highly industrialized and prosperous nation.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


After 23 years in office, 20 years as a Judge ( 13 years as Judge of Allahabad High Court, then Acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Chief Justice of Madras and Delhi High Courts, and lastly as a Judge of the Supreme Court ) and 3 years as Chairman, Press Council of India, I am now a free man, and enjoying my freedom.

This gives me more time to write posts on Facebook. Each of these posts require tremendous effort in thinking and studying, which indeed I have been doing for over half a century, before the post is put up, for I want to present complex ideas in simple language which everyone can understand. People want to know about our country India ( see my article ' What is India ? ' and the other articles on facebook and on my blog), the problems it is facing, the direction in which we have to take it, etc.

So these posts are written in my blood ( figuratively speaking ). I dearly love my country, and wish to educate people and explain how we can make our country prosperous. So I pour my heart and soul ( and, of course, my brains) into these posts.

I know I will not be alive when India emerges as a modern highly industrialized and prosperous nation in which everyone gets a decent life ( because tremendous sacrifices over a long period of time are required before that objective is attained, and I am already an old man ), but my satisfaction will be that I made a humble, even if small, contribution to that end.

Economics and Economists

The basic problems of our country, and indeed of most countries, are economic---massive poverty, unemployment, recession, price rise, etc.
 One would have thought that our economists would have seriously addressed these problems scientifically, and thought out solutions. Unfortunately the truth is that many of the theories which have been propounded worldwide by many economists, some of whom have even won Nobel Prizes, are often rubbish and /or deliberate obfuscation, and the  economics which is taught in our Universities and colleges is largely drivel and mumbo jumbo.
  Many of our economists have been educated in Harvard or Yale or Oxford or Cambridge or the London School of Economics. But I am not at all impressed by such qualifications. Many idiots have got degrees from these institutions. What matters is whether one uses the scientific method in economics ( as in most other studies ), and that is what I found missing in most economists, in India and abroad.

Sequel to ' The Transitional Era in India '

This is a sequel to my previous post regarding India's present transitional era in its history.
  I had put up that post not to scare you all but to tell you the truth, so that Indians may know about the times which are coming, and be better prepared for them..
 I had said that the present historical period of transition in Indian history is from a feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial one.
  The seeds of this transition were sown by our British rulers. No doubt the British did an enormous amount of damage to India, causing horrible miseries to our people ( see my blogs ' Dinner at the German Embassy 'and ' The Great Bengal Famine ' on my blog ). But in this process,( though for their own benefit ) the British introduced a certain limited  amount of Western technology in India.
  After Independence in 1947 the Indian Government under the leadership of Pt. Nehru laid the base of a heavy industry in India by setting up steel plants, etc and creating many engineering colleges. A certain amount of industrialization was achieved on the basis of that heavy industrial base. This, no doubt, created large dents in our feudal society, but did not destroy it totally. Feudal thinking and practices like casteism, communalism, superstitions and discrimination against women are still widely prevalent in our society, and these feudal remnants, which are still very powerful, have to be destroyed if our country is to progress.
  Some people say that they have already been destroyed. That is entirely untrue. Casteism is still a powerful force in our society. What does ' honour killing ' prove ? Is it not correct that most non scheduled caste people look down on the scheduled castes ? How many non scheduled caste people will willingly give their daughters in marriage to a scheduled caste boy ? Some time back in a University in Tamilnadu boys of the Vanniyar caste ( a non sc caste ) fought a pitched battle with boys of the scheduled castes. Scheduled caste boys who marry a non scheduled caste girl are sometimes killed.
  What do dowry deaths prove ? Do they not show how girls are often treated in our society ? What do communal riots, which often occur even today, prove ? What does the widespread belief in astrology prove ? What does the widespread belief in ' babas ' ( 'godmen' ) show ?
  The truth is that we are still largely a very backward country, socially and mentally. So a tremendous, long drawn, struggle has to be waged under the leadership of our modern minded, patriotic intelligensia if India is to emerge from its backwardness and become a modern, highly industrialized prosperous country.
  I will conclude this post with a sher ( couplet ) from the great Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri which in two lines describes some features of the transitional era through which we are passing :
  " Har zarre par ek kaifiyat-e-neemshabi hai
     Ai saaqi-e- dauran, yeh gunahon ki ghadi hai "
The word ' zarre 'means particles, ' kaifiyat ' means condition, ' neem ' means half, ; shab ' means night, ' saaqi ' means the wine serving woman, ' dauran ' means era, and ' gunahon ' means sins.
 in my opinion this sher is one of the greatest shers ever written, and ranks along with the best shers of Ghalib, the greatest Urdu poet. In a marvel of condensation it describes the transitional era our society and nation are going through.
  As mentioned in my previous post, the transitional era is a very painful and turbulent period in history, full of turmoil, disorder, crimes, intellectual ferment, etc. India is presently passing through this period in history. Feudal remnants like casteism, communalism, superstitions and discrimination against women are persisting and are still strong, as is evident from the phenomena of ' honour killing ', dowry deaths, communal riots, etc
   It is a ' gunahon ki ghadi ' ( time of sins ) from the point of view of both the feudal minded people, as well as of the modern minded people. The feudal minded people regard inter caste and inter religious love marriages as a gunah ( sin ), sometimes deserving ' honour killing '. They regard ' dating ' with a person of the opposite sex before marriage as a gunah. They regard scheduled castes as inferior.
  On the other hand, the modern minded people regard ' honour killing ' as a gunah, they see nothing wrong in love marriages, and demand genuine equality for women, scheduled castes, etc
 Thus we see a clash and combat of values between the old and the new, as happens in a transitional age. It is a ' gunahon ki ghadi ', whichever way you look at it. Feudal and modern ideas co-exist in the transitional period, battling with each other.
 One is reminded of Shakespeare's line in ' Macbeth ' :
" Fair is foul and foul is fair ". This is precisely the situation in India today in this transitional age. What one group of people regard as fair is regarded as foul by another, and vice versa.. Values of the old era, e.g. belief in the caste system, start crumbling, and are sought to be reversed by champions of the new society, which has not yet been created. A storm is blowing over the country, which is likely to last about 20 years or so, a storm which will be terrible for many, but which will sweep away the filth of feudalism and backwardness in our country.
  " Kaifiyat -e- neemshabi ' means literally ' condition of half night '. This means firstly that we are living in an age which is neither night nor day, neither the one nor the other, neither medeival nor modern, but somewhere in between. The whole of society has been thrown into convulsions, chaos and strife. A tremendous amount of social churning is taking place. What was regarded as right earlier, is regarded as wrong today ( e.g. the caste system ), and vice versa.
 Secondly, the word ' neemshabi ' indicates a mental condition of being dazed, as we often are when we wake up in the middle of the night due to some reason. " Neemshabi ' implies that the night is only half complete. The words ' har zarre 'indicate that everyone is in a dazed or stupefied mental condition.
  In Urdu poetry, a ' saaqi 'is not just a woman who serves wine. She is also often a person to whom one can tell one's innermost thoughts. When the poet says ' Ai saaqi-e-dauran ' he is really addressing people of this ( transitional ) age.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Transitional Era in India

 India is presently passing through a transitional period in its history, from feudal agricultural society to modern Industrial society. At present we are neither totally feudal nor totally industrial, but somewhere in between. While we have achieved a certain level of industrialization, we still have a lot of remnants of feudalism in our society in the form of casteism, communalism,superstitions, etc.

 A transitional period  is a very painful and agonizing period in history, full of turbulence and turmail. If we read the history of Europe from the 17th to 19th Centuries, when Europe was passing through its transition from feudalism to a modern industrial society, we find that this was a terrible period in Europe, full of turbulence, wars, revolutions, chaos, social churning, and intellectual ferment, with all kinds of theories of Voltaire, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Thomas Paine, etc, It was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe.

 India is presently going through this fire.  We are going through a very painful and agonizing period in our history which I think will last for around another 20 years.

 For after all what is a transition in history ? It is a period when society is being turned topsy turvy, and is in a state of total confusion. The old feudal society is being torn apart and totally uprooted, and is being replaced by a new, modern society. Old values are being challenged and gradually destroyed, and supplanted by new values. The whole of society is thrown into chaos and confusion. Defenders of the old order are being challenged by adherents of the new.

 At present in India there are still a lot of remnants of feudalism in the form of casteism, communalism, and superstitious thinking. A mighty struggle will have to be waged by all patriotic Indians, who will have to make great sacrifices, to combat feudal ideas and destroy the feudal remnants in our society, and replace them with modern, scientific practices and ideas.

  Can all this happen without a great deal of turmoil ? No, it cannot. One may wish that the transition is without any pain or turbulence, but unfortunately that is not how history functions. So the next 20 years or so in India is likely to witness a lot of turbulence and turmoil.

 Our aim must be to create an India which is prosperous, and in which all Indians enjoy a decent life and a high standard of living.

What I Stand for?

I have been described variously as a megalomaniac, a crank, a maverick, a publicity seeker, a wild man, a loose cannon, and even a dog (by a Chief Minister), who 'comments on everything under the Sun'.

What am I really ? What do I stand for ? I think a clarification of my views is in order.

I submit that my views are consistent, coherent, and directed to one single aim : To help my country become prosperous with its people having decent lives.

My views are already in my articles and videos on my blog and on the website, but let me summarize.

(1) Before the Industrial Revolution which began in Western Europe in the mid 18th Century there were feudal, agricultural societies everywhere. The feudal method of production was so backward and primitive (the bullock, buffalo, or horse were used for tilling the land, not tractors ) that very little wealth was generated by it, and hence only a handful of people (kings, aristocrats, zamindars, etc) could be rich, while the vast majority had to be poor. When the cake is small, very few people can eat it.

In sharp contrast, after the Industrial Revolution a unique situation has been created in world history. Modern industry is so powerful and so big that enough wealth can now be generated to meet the basic needs of everyone, and now no one need be poor, and every human being can get a decent life.

However, despite this unique historical situation, the reality is that 80% of the people of the world, including 80% Indians, are poor.

(2) The worst thing in life is poverty. In India there is massive poverty, malnutrition (every second Indian child suffers from malnutrition), unemployment, farmers suicides, skyrocketing prices, lack of healthcare and good education for the vast majority, etc

(3) Science is the only solution to these great social evils. By science I do not mean physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology alone. By science I mean the entire scientific outlook and scientific temper, which must be spread to every nook and corner of our country if we wish to abolish these social evils.

(4) The truth is that the vast majority of our people are intellectually very backward, their minds full of casteism, communalism, and superstitions. And it is not just the uneducated people who are backward. Vast sections of the so called educated people in our society are also casteist, communal, and superstitious.

(5) Therefore my whole effort is to combat backward, feudal ideas and promote rational and scientific thinking among the Indian people so that India emerges as a modern, highly industrialized, prosperous country, in which all its people (and not just a handful) are prosperous. This requires long, steady effort of patiently explaining the truth to the people, which is precisely what I have been doing since long.

(6) We have all the potential of becoming a modern, highly industrialized, prosperous country. We have today (which we did not have in 1947) thousands of outstanding scientists, technicians, engineers, managers, doctors, etc and we also have immense natural wealth, raw materials, etc. We have therefore to convert this potential into a reality so that all our people (and not just a handful) get decent lives.

Is this the objective and thinking of a 'megalomaniac', a 'loose cannon', a 'crank', a 'wild man' and a 'dog'?

Healthcare in India

Healthcare in India
A leading English weekly has on the front page of its 30th November issue the words ' India's Best Hospitals '.

Among these best hospitals is one where I took my wife when she was very ill with septicemia. I must say that the hospital saved her life.  

I was a sitting Supreme Court Judge then. My wife was sinking when I made an urgent call to the hospital. They sent an ambulance with a doctor, and her treatment started immediately on arrival of the ambulance. At the hospital, which is a state of art hospital, she was rushed into the I.C.U. where a team of 12 doctors, headed by one of the most renowned doctors in Delhi, immediately started treatment. After about 3 days in the I.C.U. she improved, though she had to stay in a private ward for another week or so.

 I am relating this story to say that had I been an ordinary person in India this treatment would not have been possible. The treatment was extremely expensive, and cost several lac rupees, which could hardly have been afforded by an average Indian. Being a Supreme Court Judge all expenses for the treatment, including medicines and room rent in the private ward, were paid by the government. But could an ordinary Indian have afforded it ?

 The top hospitals in India are no doubt very good,but how much percent of the Indian people can afford to go there ? My guess is less than 5%.

 In many cities, and particularly in rural areas, people with ailments often go to quacks ( unqualified doctors ), because they cannot afford to go to qualified doctors. The number of quacks may possibly be 5 to 10 times the number of qualified doctors. The government hospitals are mostly no good, while the private clinics are exorbitantly expensive. So many people simply die because they cannot afford proper medical care.

 On page 78 of the same issue it is mentioned that India has one of the highest mortality rates in the world. Many of them die from preventable causes like low birth weight, birth trauma, preterm births, pregnancy complications, tuberculosis and congenital cardiac disease. Infants die because of poor sanitation,  dehydration, diarrhoea, etc Malnutrition is a major cause of infant mortality. Half the women in India are anaemic.

Page 100 of the issue mentions the tragic case of a vegetable vendor, Rambhor, who was hit by a speeding vehicle in Azadpur Mandi in Delhi. If he had been in any developed country, paramedics would have started life-saving procedures in the ambulance itself ( as was done for my wife ), and he would have reached a well equipped hospital in no time. In Delhi, however, he was transferred from one hospital to another for five hours.

The first hospital claimed that it did not have an I.C.U. bed. The second said its ultra sound facility did not work. The third said that the medico-legal documents were not in place.
 Rambhor died in the premises of the last hospital without receiving any medical help.
Dr. Rajesh Garg, of the VCSG Government Medical Sciences and Research Institute, Uttarakhand, mentions this case in a report on the state of emergency medical services. He writes : " The death of Rambhor was not a routine death; it symbolizes the breakdown of emergency medical services in India ".
         Jinhe naaz hai Hind par woh kahaan hain ?
At a meeting in the Calcutta Town Hall held on 15.9.1933 to honour him on his 57th birthday, the great Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya said :
 " I am forever indebted to the deprived, ordinary people who give this world everything they have, but receive nothing in return, to the weak and oppressed people whose tears nobody bothers to witness, and to the endlessly tormented, distressed and helpless people who do not have even a moment to think that despite there being everything they have nothing.
  They made me start to speak. They inspired me to take up their case and plead for them. I have witnessed endless injustice to these people, unfair, intolerable injustice.
  it is true that springs do come to this world for some, with their sweet smelling breeze,perfumed with newly bloomed flowers, and spiced with cuckoo's songs. But such good things remained well outside the sphere where my sight remained imprisoned "

On Women’s Emancipation

The Indian Constitution no doubt provides for equality of men and women in Articles 14, 15 and 16.  But what do we see in actual practice?  In practice there is often denial of equality for women in large parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, which is due to the disgusting survival of remnants of feudalism and medievalism in our society.

Feudal, agricultural society was based predominantly on physical labour, because tilling and cultivating the agricultural field required hard physical labour, which men could do better than women. Men are usually physically stronger than women.
 Also, women were physically incapacitated for certain periods during pregnacy and for some time thereafter. In fact in feudal society most women had 15-20 children ( most of whom died since medical science was not then advanced ), because there were no contraceptives ( Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to her 14th child ). Hence, feudal society was a male dominated society, and women were largely confined to household work, which is work of drudgery giving little scope for development of the mind.
In feudal society, small scale and middle peasant farming shackled women, tied them to their individual households, and narrowed their outlook. They were practically slaves of their husbands, who often beat them cruelly. On marriage their property often passed to their husbands, as we note in Emile Bronte’s novel `Wuthering Heights’. The lives of women in feudal society were full of continual, unending labour, a kind of labour that was looked down upon and bore the imprint of bondage. She had to do cooking, washing clothes, cleaning the home and other household chores, apart from bearing and rearing children. She was deprived of education and cultural development. Petty household work crushed, strangled, stultified and degraded her, chained her to the kitchen and nursery, and she wasted her labour on barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-racking and stultifying work of crushing drudgery. The oppression of women in feudal society was clearly expressed in the novels and stories of the great Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya (see `Shrikant’, `Brahman ki beti’, `Gramin Samaj’, etc.).

On the other hand, in industrial society brains are more important than physical strength, and much of the physical work is done by machines, which can often be operated by the touch of a button. Wars in modern times are not fought with swords and spears, which require physical strength, but with sophisticated aircraft, mechanized weapons and computers, which even women can operate. Hence in industrial society intellectual skills e.g. knowledge of science, mathematics, engineering, medicine, computers etc are more important than physical strength.

No doubt even in industrial society it is women who have to give birth to children. However, since much of the work in industrial society is mental work e.g. teaching or operating a computer, and does not involve hard physical labour, women can continue working till almost the end of their pregnancy, and industrial society provides them maternity benefits e.g. leave with full pay for two or three months. Also, women can leave their small children in crèches, nurseries and kindergartens while they go off to work. Household work is often done by gadgets, e.g. washing machines, vacuum cleaners, pressure cookers, microwave ovens, etc., and this work is often shared by the men folk.

Intelligence quotient (I.Q.) tests in psychology have established that the I.Q. of an average woman is the same as that of an average man. In fact whenever women got opportunity they showed that they could perform as well as men in almost all activities e.g. science, art, political leadership, medicine, engineering, teaching, etc. Elizabeth-I of England and Catherine the Great of Russia were great leaders, and Madam Curie was the first person in the world to win two Nobel Prizes, one in Physics and the other in Chemistry. The Bronte sisters, Margaret Mitchell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Meerabai, Lal Ded, Habba Khatoon, Andal, etc were great writers. The Rani of Jhansi was a great warrior. Many more such examples can be given.
 Hence, it is not due to any inherent inferiority but only due to the fact that women were not given education and other opportunities that they could not come up to the level of men in the past.

While in feudal, agricultural society there was division of labour between men and women, the men doing outdoor work involving harder physical labour, and the women doing household chores, in industrial society this division of labour has almost entirely vanished, and women are often doing the same work as men and have become economically independent.

Since in industrial society brain is more important than brawn, and since the I.Q. of an average woman is the same as that of an average man, it logically follows that women should have complete equality with men in such a society.

However, the truth is that in practice that is often not so, despite the legal provisions for equality, many of which remain on paper only. Equality before the law is not necessarily equality in fact. Thus, in Tolstoy’s novel ‘Anna Karenina’ and Gustave Flaubert’s novel ‘Madam Bovary’ we see how women were driven to suicide for not accepting an unhappy marriage.

In India we still have a largely male dominated society, and women are often looked down up and not given equal treatment. The birth of a female child is often regarded as disaster, and female foeticide is common in many parts of the country (despite the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994). When a male child is born everyone rejoices and sweets are distributed, but when a female child is born everyone’s face is dejected and crest-fallen, as if a great tragedy has occurred.(see Sharat Chandra’s novel ‘Parineeta’)

I may also mention the disgusting practice of dowry. It is said that in many communities ( though not in all ) an I.A.S. Officer’s dowry price is several crores, and that of an engineer or doctor is also high. Is this not disgusting, this practice of treating women as sheep or cattle and that too by giving money to the purchaser instead of paying money to him?

The law courts in India are flooded with cases of crimes against women e.g. dowry deaths, often caused by pouring kerosene on a young wife and setting her on fire, or by hanging her (and calling it suicide). Wife beating and cruelty to women is rampant in our society, and in fact seems to have increased by leaps and bounds of late (though it must be added that very often provisions in the law to protect women like S.498A I.P.C. are grossly misused).

We have no doubt made same progress in women’s education since 1947, and now many women are educated, which was not the position earlier. Women have also now entered many professions e.g. law, medicine, teaching, journalism, etc., which is due to the partial industrialization of India after 1947. However in many other respects the position of women is as bad, if not worse, than earlier, and probably this is due to the large scale commercialization of society, in which everything, including human relations, has been reduced to exchange value.
 I remember that when I joined the legal profession in 1971 there was only one lady lawyer coming regularly to the Allahabad High Court. Today there would be about 400-500. Of course the number of lawyers in the Allahabad High Court is today about 8000, so this amounts to only 5% of the total number of lawyers, but 5% is better than almost 0%. The same is the situation in most High Courts, and in the Supreme Court.

We in India are living in a transitional age, the transition being from feudal, agricultural society to modern, industrial society. We are neither totally backward, nor totally modern, but somewhere in between.  Hence remnants of feudal culture e.g. casteism and communalism are persisting in our society.  It is for this reason that our society is still largely male dominated, and most women do not have real freedom. For instance we often hear of `honour killings’ of young men and women of different castes or religions being killed, harassed or threatened merely because they wanted to marry with a person of a different caste or religion. This is really barbaric, and shows how backward we still are, and it has been condemned by a bench of the Supreme Court of which of I was a member in Lata Singh vs. State of U.P. and another (2006) 5 SCC 475.
  In Bhagwan Das vs. State ( NCT ) of Delhi, 2011, a bench of the Supreme Court consisting of myself and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra observed :
" In our opinion honour killings, for whatever reason, come within the category of rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment. It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation. This is necessary as a deterrent for such outrageous, uncivilized behaviour. All persons who are planning to perpetrate `honour' killings should know that the gallows await them ".
How is the situation to be remedied? In my opinion for this we have to get over the transitional period and become a modern, industrial state. We must spread scientific thinking in our country on a massive scale, and encourage people to give up superstitions and backward, feudal ideas, e.g. casteism and communalism. This is only possible by a complete revolution in our thinking and attitude towards women, a massive cultural struggle involving hundreds of millions of our people which will sweep away all remnants of the disgusting feudal and medieval practices and mentality which persist even today, particularly towards women, and replace them with scientific thinking and genuine and complete equality between men and women. When and how this will come about I cannot say. But come it will, and all patriotic people in India, including the men, must strive and contribute to this goal.

I will conclude by quoting verses from the great Tamil poet Subramania Bharati who wrote (around 1908-1910) powerful verses in favour of women’s emancipation. In fact he wrote all this at a time when probably no one in India, or even in foreign countries, even thought of women's emancipation, and thus he was far ahead of his times :

“Gummiyadi Gummiyadi Nadumughudum
Kulungida thaikotti Gummiyadi
Nammai pidiththa pisasugal poyina
Nanmai kandomendru Gummiyadi

Ettaiyum pengal thoduvadhu teemaiyendru
Enniyirundhavan mainduvittar,
Veettunkulley pennai pootivaipomenra
Vindhai manidhar thalai kavinghhar”

(Dandiya-dance to celebrate women’s emancipation) :    

“Dance oh friend dance, playing dandiya let it be with such
force that as you dance it shakes up and wakes up this entire Nation.

Let us dance to celebrate our emancipation from the ghosts
which were holding on to us for centuries. Let us celebrate our achievement.

Those who thought that if education was given to women it
would harm the society, are all dead today !

Those strange fellows who wanted women to be kept locked
inside their homes have now tasted their downfall !

So, oh friends ! Let us celebrate the emancipation of women
and dance playing dandiya”.
“Pudhumaip Penn” (The New Woman)

“Aanum Pennum Nigar Enakkollvathaal
Arivil O’ngi Ivvaiyagam Thazhaikkumaam”

(This world will achieve excellence in knowledge
and wisdom by holding men and women equal)

“Vilagi Veettilo’r Pondhil Valarvadhal
Veerap-Pengal Viraivil Ozshippaaram”

(Valiant women will soon eradicate the custom
of growing in seclusion in homes)

“Pengal Viduthalaik Kummi” (Women Liberation Song)
“Yettaiyum Pengal Thoduvathu Theemai
Endrenni Irundhavar Maaindhu Vittaar,
Veettukkulle Pennai Pootti Vaippom Endra
Vindhai Manithar Thalai Kavizhndhaar”

(Those who thought that it was a sin for women to
touch books are dead; the incredible men who
wanted to lock the women inside their homes now
hang their heads in shame)

“Kangal Irandinil ordrai kuththi
Kaatchi Kedutthidalamo
Pengal arivai valarthal, vaiyyam
Pedamai attridum kaaneer

(from a poem titled “Murasu”)

(Out of the two eyes, if you pierce and destroy
one, are you not spoiling your own vision? In fact,
if you educate the women, the backwardness
which grips this world will vanish automatically.”)

          “Pattankkal Aazhvadum Sattankkal Seivathum
Paarinil Penkal Nadatha Vanthom
(Women have come up now to get degrees,
to legislate and rule in the world)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The World Economic Recession

For quite some time there has been an economic recession all over the world. From time to time we hear of a recovery, but in fact there has not been, and there is unlikely to be, a genuine recovery of the world economy for a long time. I will try to explain.
An economic recession is a feature of an industrial, not agrarian economy. In agrarian economies, too, there were catastrophies, but these were due to natural calamities like drought, epidemics, etc. An economic recession is a feature peculiar to industrial economies.

There have been recessions every eight or ten years ever since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th Century in Western Europe. These, however, were followed shortly thereafter by recoveries. But there has been one Great Depression which lasted from 1929 to 1939, and was ended only by the Second World War (in which 50 million lives were lost) which generated the massive demand for armaments, supplies to armies and war affected civilian populations, and capital for reconstruction, etc. This Great Depression caused havoc in large parts of the globe, particularly in the developed countries.

We are now witnessing a persistent, and apparently unending, world economic recession, and its sweep is wider than that of the Depression of 1929, because while the latter affected mainly North America and Europe, the former is affecting the whole world, because while before the Second World War ( 1939-1945 ) many countries ( including India ) were largely unindustrialized, there has been a certain level of industrialization in most countries since then.


The principal cause of an economic recession (or depression) is lack of sales, which in turn is due to lack of purchasing power in the masses. There are other causes also, but these are only incidental, and not the main cause.

A large part of the world’s population is so poor that it hardly has sufficient purchasing power. Even in the developed countries there are many poor people.

Apart from the above, as the industrial economy develops, in the process industries tend to become larger and larger, to effect economy of scale, and more and more capital intensive ( that is, labour being replaced by machinery ). This is necessary for industries to face the competition in the market, otherwise their rivals will become larger and more capital intensive and drive them out of the market, by underselling them. This process is inevitable in most industries, but it leads to large scale unemployment, since many workers in a labor intensive industry are laid off when it becomes capital intensive. This generates unemployment.

Let me explain. There is competition between businessmen in the market. Let us take a simple illustration. Suppose A has a shop selling a loaf of bread for Rs.20. Next to his shop is the shop of B selling the same size and quality loaf for Rs. 18. What will happen ? The customers of A will gradually leave him and become the customers of B, and B will eliminate A by underselling him. Thus one businessman eliminates another not by tanks, guns or bombs but by underselling him.
Now the same thing happens on the national and even international level.

To reduce his sale price a businessman has to grow larger ( to effect economy of scale ) and to introduce new technology. This is because cost of labour is a big chunk of the total cost of production. So if the cost of labour is less, the cost of production is less, and if the cost of production is less, the businessman can sell at a cheaper price, and thus eliminate his business rival.. By introducing new and labour saving technology in his plant, the businessman can cut down his labour costs, and thereby his cost of production.

Suppose a manufacturer had 500 workers working in his plant. With the advance of technology he may get a new machinery which requires only 100 workers to produce the same amount of goods which he was producing earlier. This means 400 workers will become unemployed. Even if 100 of these 400 workers can get jobs elsewhere this still leaves 300 workers unemployed. When we enlarge our scene (because the same process is inevitable in most industries) we find large scale unemployment is being generated everywhere.

Now the worker, apart from being a producer, is also a consumer. Of course a worker in a steel factory does not consume steel. But he and his family consume food, clothes, shoes and various other articles. When he becomes unemployed his purchasing power becomes drastically reduced. And when unemployment is generated on a large scale, the market correspondingly contracts on a large scale, and this leads to a recession.

Thus we see that the very dynamics of an unregulated industrial economy is that by the very inevitable process of its growth it keeps destroying its market.

The goods produced have to be sold. But how can they be sold when people have lost their purchasing power (due to widespread unemployment)?

Mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption. By taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers the industrialists deny to themselves the effective demand for their products that would justify reinvestment of their capital accumulation in new plants (which would also provide employment ).

Before the Great Depression of 1929 high level of employment was generated by high level of debt in the form of mortgage debts (for housing etc.), loans to buy cars and other consumer goods, brokers loans (for buying shares, etc.). The same thing happened in recent times. But this cannot continue endlessly. A time comes when people cannot repay their debts (due to unemployment or cut in real wages). Then debtors curtail their consumption, which reduces demand, and the producing units have to close down or drastically cut production.

In modern economies, most businesses require loans for their normal operations. Banks normally retain a small fraction of their deposits (5% or less) and give the rest as loans to borrowers. When the banking sector does not work properly (because of defaults by loanees) businesses do not easily get loans, and consequently they have to curtail their production and lay off workers. As they curtail production they require less raw materials and other supplies. Hence their suppliers have to reduce their output and lay off their workers. The suppliers to these suppliers have to do the same.Thus, this can set off a chain reaction.

If manufacturers cannot sell they cannot generate enough revenue to repay their loans. The business goes bankrupt and the bank finds in its hand non performing assets. Hence banks want to lend less. This becomes a vicious cycle.

Depositors get scared because some banks have collapsed due to the non performing assets. Hence they start withdrawing their money, and more banks collapse.

The economic recession is thus caused by the reduction of purchasing power in the masses which is due to the very dynamics of unregulated growth. The productive capacity has been enhanced enormously, but the vast majority of people are too poor to buy.

The problem, therefore, is not how to increase production, but how to increase the purchasing power of the masses. Production can be increased easily several times because there are tens of thousands of engineers, technicians, etc., and there are immense reserves of raw materials in India. But the goods produced have to be sold, and how can they be sold when the people are poor or unemployed, and thus have very little purchasing power?

The problem is also not how to increase demand. The demand is there, but people do not have the money for purchasing goods. In India, for instance, 75% people live on bare subsistence incomes. This may not even be sufficient for buying necessities, like food or medicines, what to say of durable consumer goods like motor cars, refrigerators, computers, air conditioners and other goods.

The solution to the economic crisis can only be by raising the purchasing power of the masses. How this is to be done requires a great deal of discussion and creative thinking , and all serious thinkers must now address this main problem facing our country, and indeed the whole world.

The situation in India today is that while we have recently increased the number of billionaires in our country, the poor have become poorer and even the middle class is finding it difficult to make two ends meet because of rising prices. This is a dangerous trend and if continued is going to lead to widespread social turmoil and social unrest. It is totally unfair to the vast masses of our people and it will not be tolerated very long.

Society owes subsistence to all its citizens either in procuring work for them on a reasonable wage, or in ensuring a livelihood to those who are unable to work.

As stated by the great French thinker Rousseau in his book 'Discourse on Inequality' : “Nothing can be farther from the law of nature,however we define it, than that a handful of people be gorged with luxuries, while the starving multitude lacks the necessities of life.”

Unfortunately, most people are silent about this terrible plight of our people because those who should be speaking out are mostly beneficiaries of the present system, and hence do not want to disturb it.
It is time now that the patriotic intellectuals speak out on these issues.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Jammu & Kashmir Floods: Dr. Peter Patel's draft report

Jammu & Kashmir Floods – September 2014
Assessment visit 1st November – 10th November to
 New Delhi and Srinagar by
Dr Peter Patel – International Project Director

Summary and Key Recommendations
1.0   People of Jammu and Kashmir this September witnessed one of the most disastrous flood in their region.   Figures for people and villages affected vary according to various reports.  However, there is no doubt that around 2 million people have been affected by this disaster, 2600 villages are affected in Jammu (1000 villages) and Kashmir and 390 villages were completely submerged.  A great part of Srinagar was transformed into a huge lake.  Many parts of Srinagar had over 20 feet of water with between 1 to 2 floors of buildings under water for several days.  Like any other natural calamity, majority of vital roads were submerged, communication, transport and health services were paralysed
1.1   In this visit a limited assessment could be made from visit to Srinagar from 4th to 7th November.   This is not meant to be a comprehensive report.  Most of the evidence has been gathered by visual review of Srinagar,  listening to local residents, media reports  and information provided by Department of Health.  A review of the City confirmed that most of the city areas were submerged under water.   The river Jhelum spilled over submerging Sonwar, Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh and Wazir Bagh neighbourhoods of city. The first and the second storey of the houses and hotels in Rajbagh that were packed with tourists were submerged.   Not surprisingly, all 4 major hospitals in Srinagar were badly affected by the floods and Kashmir Mirror reported that all these hospitals were mostly paralysed with large parts of their ground floors under water.  There was  huge loss and damage to expensive equipment and complete loss of functionality for weeks.
Recommendation 1: 
Undertake a full independent review of Business Continuity Plans of the 4 Srinagar hospitals.  Independent review panel should particularly consider whether there was a Business Continuity or Crisis Management plan.  If there was such a plan in place then consideration should be given to:
     1.  Who was responsible for implementing this plan?
     2.  Was the plan deliverable and effective?  What functions were affected by the
          September 2014 floods and what was contingency plan to ensure quick
          restoration of these functions?
     3.  What went right and what went wrong.
     4.  How many staff were trained and what resources were in place to implement the
     5.  What lessons can be learnt from this disaster and what steps will be taken to
          mitigate damage in future from similar disasters.
2.0   Srinagar has a flood spill channel which was constructed in 1904 to relieve the strain on the Jhelum in the City of Srinagar.  It is supposed to take 2/3rd of the total flow in the river and was designed to help  river Jhelum to regulate its water levels while passing through the City of Srinagar.  There is clear evidence that this flood channel is no longer fit for purpose, badly maintained and poorly dredged.
Recommendation 2: 
Serious review should be taken on restoring functionality of the flood spill channel.  Visual evidence suggests that this channel and parts of Jhelum river has become dumping ground for building material, and commercial and domestic waste.  Significant part of the waste is non-biological and non-degradable enabling solidification at the bottom of the river and the channel.  Along with this there are building/construction encroachments along the shores.   Major efforts should be made to manage these effectively to ensure future risk mitigation from floods.
There is a lot of learning for Disaster Management Leads from this flood.  We are not sure if the following areas (see below) were taken into consideration and if yes, why were they not effective. 

Mitigation or Risk Mitigation - steps taken to control, reduce adverse effects or prevent a hazard from causing harm and to reduce risk to a tolerable or acceptable.  

There are four types of risk mitigation strategies that hold unique to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. It’s important to develop a strategy that closely relates to and matches your regional administration and economic profile.

Risk Acceptance: Risk acceptance may not reduce any effects in many cases but in all cases will allow an assessment of the risks, potential harm and damage and enable planning to reduce level of harm, morbidity or mortality.  Natural disasters are those where we have to accept unpredictable risks, however there should still be a strategy to mitigate from such disasters.  Total risk acceptance as it is done in commercial world is not an option for any government or organisation dealing with disaster management.  
Risk Avoidance: Opposite of risk acceptance. Actions that avoids any exposure to the risk whatsoever.
Risk Limitation:  Usually should be used along with risk avoidance and in many cases it is impossible to have 100% risk avoidance. 
Risk Transference: Risk transference is the involvement of handing risk off to a third party. Usually, a local or state government will use this strategy by passing transferring the handling of risks to Central government or a special central unit such as National Disaster Management Centre.

Did the State or Disaster management leads consider lowering of risks by considering and learning from past disasters?:   
  • Reducing the severity of potential consequences;
  • Reducing the probability of occurrence harmful effects;
§  Reducing the exposure to that risk.
3.0  Several thousands of families have lost their homes, crops and livestock.  Significant infrastructure was either disabled or destroyed. Hospitals, schools, shops and local administrative units have also been badly affected by significant damage, and thousands of businesses have lost everything they owned.    Poverty and unemployment has returned.  There is clearly an economic crisis in the region.  People of Kashmir are not aware of any support they will get immediately or over period of next 12 months for economic recovery which will enable them to restore their businesses.  Those who have become unemployed suddenly are not sure when they will be gainfully employed to support their families.  Poverty is setting and there is a big challenge to support these communities through these difficult periods.
Like with any major disaster, water and sewerage systems have been badly damaged.  To repair and restore these systems will take several months.  The first key challenge for survivors is access to clean water, safe food and sanitation.  The second key challenge for the survivors is to survive the harsh winter which has started and will last till end of March 2015.   We did not find any evidence for a ‘Winter mitigation and crisis management plan.’
While large part of the country recognised and appreciated the role of Army during these floods, many local communities and commentators were critical of the media’s uneven focus,  heavy coverage of Army support and not recognising a great job done by the local people.   Overall review based on local people’s comments and media reports indicate possibility of deficiency in rescuing many stranded communities, very poor support and absence of effective manpower and appropriate resources for distribution of aid.  This does not in anyway reflect truth and reality of the situation.  Those who would be affected by such calamities will always find few hours let alone few days wait  too long and inadequate.  It should be recognised that during such mega disasters, it is difficult to map extent of disaster and support needs of the communities over several thousands of square miles of land in absence of communication networks and immobilised infrastructure.  

Recommendation 3: 
It is important to make clear that this recommendation does not indicate that these steps are not being taken by the State Government.  Much of the assessment was limited because of two days of curfew in the region, there by restricting amount of reliable information gathering and evaluation.  
a)  It is recommended that government officials undertake a rapid review of supply of clean water, safe sewerage and removal of garbage, assessment of contamination of water supply from chemicals and hazardous waste.  We did not have any access to reports on assessment of chemical contamination.  Regular monitoring of water supplies should continue even when earlier testing indicates safe water.  It is important to understand that when such disaster occur, water supplies can be contaminated even at later date because of damaged sewerage and subsequent contamination of water because of poor sanitation facilities.  Ensure quick repair and restoration of water and sewerage systems and upgrading of the system instead of use of short term ‘bandaid/sticky plaster’ method.
b)  Much work needs to be done to mitigate increase in morbidity and mortality from cold and freezing temperatures of severe Kashmir winter.  Most affected people who have lost their homes will be living either in over-crowded shared homes or equally overcrowded poor temporary shelters.   It is predicted that the winter pressures will increase mortality within the babies, infants the elderly.   Winter usually sees an increase of upto 30% in illnesses and many deaths occur as result of respiratory illnesses or heart attacks.  Most homes and offices will not have dried completely, and the resulting damp will continue to increase winter related illnesses. 
There should be continued needs assessment which could  be carried out jointly with NGOs and provision should be made to keep people warm and well with clothing, blankets and nutritious food.  The regional commissioner has assured us that large quantities of blankets have been distributed and all the affected communities have adequate supplies.  However, anecdotal briefings have suggested that many families who did not stay in camps but went to stay with relatives have not received any aid.
4.0  Jammu & Kashmir State Disaster Management policy makes a good reading along with Jammu and Kashmir NIDM publication.  These documents while well written raises many questions within the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, many Indians and independent NGOs.
The Jammu and Kashmir Disaster Management policies states:
a)  Area flood mapping using GIS and Remote Sensing will be prepared to make future preparedness plans.
b)   Forecast and warning system using modern scientific know-how will be improved.
c)   Proper river bank protection by constructing embankments and using anti-erosion measures will be taken up on a large scale. Involvement of PRIs by taking benefit of schemes like MNREGA will be given priority.
d)   In flood prone areas, evacuation capabilities should be enhanced.
e)   Construction of residential colonies on river banks and flood plains will not be allowed. Offenders will be dealt under law.

A number of people is Srinagar and New Delhi I talked to were clearly not convinced that these policies have either been implemented or if implemented were effective during the floods of September 2014.   Most people in Srinagar confirmed that there had been adequate warnings about impending floods.  However, most residents chose to ignore these warnings.  We could not establish whether the whole of region was adequately informed.  There was some confusion between the people providing the warnings and those receiving the warnings.  Most people I talked to stated that there was absence of clarity regarding which areas were safe areas, inadequate information on how long and how bad the floods were going to be and poor support for people to move from their homes to a safer areas. 

Most importantly, we have identified absence Community Disaster Preparedness Strategy and Management plan.  Every person we talked to in Srinagar or in New Delhi had never heard of Community Disaster Preparedness and had little understanding of their (communities) responsibility for disaster preparedness and limiting harm or damage from such crisis.

The NIDM Jammu and Kashmir plan published in 2012 is a good starting document along with the J & K Disaster Management Policy  2011 document.  Both documents show that the officers of the State have an excellent understanding of Disaster Management.  However, there are indications that the operating structures are ‘silo’ and ‘role’ culture based systems and likely to fail because of bureaucratic nature of command control, responsibilities of the nodal officers and compartmentalised  structures.  It is possible that the challenges faced during the September floods were as a result of these plans and consideration should be given to finding an integrated approach (both vertical and horizontal integration) in future. 

There is evidence that areas listed in c), d) and e) need strengthening and implementing.  Visible evidence around Srinagar also indicated that a large proportion of housing built in the region which was badly damage was of very poor standard. Many new or recently build properties also appeared to be of similar lower quality.  It is no surprise that these buildings could not withstand the September 2014 floods.  Considering the impact of the floods, the key concern for Disaster Management Authority should be whether these buildings will be able to survive a moderate earthquake.

This should not be taken a blame apportioning but lessons to be learnt. 

Recommendation 4: 

1.   Review information gathering as stated in a) and b)  above and improve planning for mitigation, improve community communications and effectiveness for community preparedness.
2.  Reconsider logistics and implementation of purpose stated in d) above.
3.  Ensure early implementation of purpose state in c) and e) above.
4.  Strengthen building regulations to ensure that all new buildings and reconstructions are built to appropriate specifications to reduce serious damage from floods and earthquakes.

5.00  Review of Health Needs – A significant part of our assessment and review was facilitated by Mr G H Kaloo, President of J & K Press Association.  I would like to acknowledge full open and transparent process of providing information by the Directorate of Health - Kashmir, extensive discussions with doctors of the Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir,  Mr Rohit Kansal, Div Commissioner and Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman, Director Health Service Kashmir.   

We would like to commend the Directorate of Health – Kashmir for their robust understanding of health needs and public health risks following major floods.  A Crisis Management Centre was set up at Division of Epidemiology and Public Health.  Evidence was presented through discussions, documentation and visit to Crisis Management Centre.  The Centre was well prepared to gather and analyse information they were receiving from the region.  Team led by  Dr Rehana Kousar along with Dr S M Kadri, Dr Ijtaba Shafi and Dr Rashid Para shared all requested information on disease monitoring and management of post-floods immunisation programme.   

Displacement related Health Problems:

After any disaster there is significant risk of communicable disease transmission to the displaced population.    The risk is higher when large population is affected such as in Kashmir floods and non-availability of safe water, food or sanitation over several days. 
Additional risks are associated with nutrition status, age of the population and level of
the level of immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and access to healthcare services. 

Risk Factors for Communicable Disease Transmission.

Effective response to health needs of any disaster affected population requires a robust communicable disease risk assessment.   We believe that the Directorate of Health – Kashmir had this in place.  There was evidence that the key staff in the Directorate had taken into consideration to identify endemic and epidemic diseases that are common in the affected area.  In its post flood support delivery they had taken into consideration living conditions of the affected population, including number, size, location, and density of settlements and availability of safe water and adequate sanitation facilities.   Reports presented by the Directorate also show that they had taken into consideration degree of access to healthcare and functionality of healthcare infrastructure under their control.

The Department was more than adequately prepared for monitoring water-borne diseases, such as typhoid fever, shigellosis, cholera, leptospirosis and hepatitis A & E (through jaundice monitoring) and vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever.   

It is commendable that the Directorate had also taken into consideration spread of most flood borne diseases and there was good evidence of mass immunisation programmes for measles.   More than 9.37 lacs of measles vaccinations have been administered in Kashmir valley.

Floods have certainly resulted in power cuts and this would have resulted in affecting functioning of health facilities.  Consideration should be given to damage to vaccine/drugs cold chain and any vaccines or drugs affected by this should be destroyed.  We understand that the Directorate of Health has already taken appropriate steps in this area.  Furthermore they have also advised people not to purchase or use medicines affected by floods.  Retail pharmacies in the region have been instructed to destroy all medicines affected by floods.

Most of the data gathered was raw figures of recorded infections or symptoms from different districts.  The information was well mapped.  Despite of huge risk factor posed by this major flood, raw data available on reported and diagnosed infection indicated no significant increase in enteric/diarrheal diseases or jaundice symptoms as compared to previous year’s figures.   The medical team attributed this low rate to rapid distribution of over 11 lacs of chlorine tablets,  provision of health education on water and food safety in camps and most affected regions.  The change in weather to lower temperatures also contributed to reduction and limiting of many traditional enteric infections.   It was recommended that in future the team should analyse the data on the basis of per 1000 population and also record age of the patients.  This would enable identification of  clusters/pockets of infection(s) at either camp sites or overcrowded localities where there may have been breach of sanitation and water or food pollution or rise in acute respiratory infections.  Recording of age would also enable whether babies/children or old people were mainly affected as compared to young healthy adults.

Non-epidemic diseases:  We did not discuss or review other areas of increased risk of infection of water-borne diseases contracted through direct contact with polluted waters, such as wound infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and ear, nose and throat infections.  Limitations of resources, diverse provision of health care through private and public sector, limited access to health care and challenges of recording and gathering data for all health care needs from a population dispersed over a large geography is a very complex and difficult task for any developing country.

Infectious disease risks from dead bodies:

There is always a potential for spread of infection from dead bodies post disaster.  An increase in large number of dead bodies post any disaster may increase concerns of disease outbreaks.  It is important to understand risks of epidemics as result of dead bodies post disaster.  In majority of the cases the deaths post natural disasters are as a result of trauma or drowning.  In such instances, the human remains do not pose a risk of epidemics.   Dead bodies do pose a risk when the death(s) are as a result of infections such as cholera, typhoid or haemorrhagic fevers.    We do not have accurate figures for number of deaths in Jammu and Kashmir floods.  Media reports indicate over 300 people were dead by mid-September

Dead bodies do pose significant risk to persons who are involved in close contact with the dead.  Such personnel in Kashmir floods could be military personnel, rescue workers, volunteers, health care workers and others involved in recovery of the bodies and post death funeral management.  These personnel are at risk of being exposed to chronic infectious agents (Table 1).

Table 1 – Infectious Agents linked to dead bodies post natural disasters


Hepatitis B
Hepatitis C


Rotavirus diarrhoea
Campylobacter enteritis
Enteric fevers (typhoid and paratyphoid)
Escherichia coli
Hepatitis A & E



·         Tuberculosis can be acquired if the bacillus is aerosolized (residual air in lungs exhaled, fluid from lungs spurted up through nose/ mouth during handling of the corpse).
·         Exposure to bloodborne viruses occurs due to direct contact with non-intact skin of blood or body fluid, injury from bone fragments and needles, or exposure to the mucous membranes from splashing of blood or body fluid.
·         Gastrointestinal infections are more common as dead bodies commonly leak faeces. Transmission occurs via the faeco-oral route through direct contact with the body and soiled clothes or contaminated vehicles or equipment. Dead bodies contaminating the water supply may also cause gastrointestinal infections
Source:  WHO Flooding and communicable diseases fact sheet

We were unable to establish whether suitable precautions for these persons were in place from our discussions or from copies of reports we received.  We recommend that Disaster Management Plans and Directorate of Health should include mandatory training in appropriate use of body bags or recovery and storage materials, use of  disposable gloves, good hygiene practice and vaccination for hepatitis B and tuberculosis.   Disposal of bodies should respect local custom and practice where possible.   However, it would be very difficult to monitor the whole region effectively, as many dead bodies would be handled by relatives without adequate protection or knowledge and the need for immediate or early burial because of religious and cultural considerations.    Consideration should be given to protecting individuals and volunteers from mohollas and educating mohalla committees of potential risks posed by dead bodies.  This could form part of Community Disaster Preparedness education.

Tetanus booster should be considered for all personnel involved in rescue and those injured people with open wounds or serious cuts.  Director of Health should also consider use of passive tetanus vaccination for appropriate personnel and wounded people.   The above recommendation does not in any way imply that this has not been considered or is not in the disaster management plan.

Vaccination against Hepatitis A:

Generally mass immunisation for prevention of Hepatitis A is not recommended.  However, this is a recommendation only and should be reviewed on the basis of local situation.   All personnel involved in management of drinking water, food chain, waste management, contaminated water or sewerage management, sewerage  should be considered at high-risk and should be offered hepatitis A vaccination.  Where an outbreak of hepatitis A is confirmed, than hep A immunisation of all contact is strongly recommended. 

Other considerations - Moulds and mildews

We did not discuss longer term implications to health resulting from damp accomodation and its impact.  As a result of rapid change in regional weather there has been very little time for most buildings to dry.  Therefore we anticipate health problems arising from dampness where there could be heavy exposure to moulds and mildews.  The key health consideration should be given to those suffering from allergies and asthma.  There is significant risk of contracting upper respiratory diseases with cold-like symptoms.  People affected would present with wheezing and difficulty in breathing, dizziness, soar throats etc.    Babies/infants, children, elderly people,  pregnant women and immunocompromised are some of the groups who are at risk from damp and mould related triggering of health problems.   

Other Diseases Associated with Crowding:

In most natural disasters crowding is a key factor for the displaced population.   It is not usually the disaster itself but the collateral impact from crowded living created as a result of the disaster which responsible for spread of many communicable diseases.    Kashmir floods are no exception to this.  Crowding in most conditions is responsible for the transmission of several communicable diseases.  Directorate of Health – Kashmir has already dealt with managing risks of measles outbreak through mass immunisation programme and other water borne transmission of infections. 

This part of the report will deal with potential of other communicable diseases which are not considered as immediate risk and should be considered as part of on going disease control programmes.

A large number of homes were destroyed during the floods.  As a result of change in the weather conditions majority of the displaced and affected population will not be able to rebuild their homes this winter.  This has resulted in continued crowded living conditions in temporary shelters and shared homes with relatives and now provides major challenges for Kashmir healthcare providers.

It is recommended that the Health Directorate also focuses on spread of respiratory pathogens in post-disaster settings including those referred to as Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) in many reports.  These would include viral (influenza, RSV, adenoviruses), bacterial (Strep pneumoniae, pertussis, tuberculosis, Legio­nella, Mycoplasma pneumoniae), and diseases transmitted via the respiratory route (measles, varicella, Neisseria meningitides).    C. Sandrock  (Infectious Diseases After Natural Disasters. California Preparedness Education Network. A program of the California Area Health Education Centers. March 7, 2006.)  has reported an increase in illnesses after Hurricane Katrina.  The propor­tion of ARI was 12% four days after the levee overflowed and 20% during the next four weeks.

Tuberculosis:  Most people do not associate Tuberculosis (TB) with natural disasters.  However, this is a misplaced thinking and there is good evidence that TB does spread among displaced populations.   Most infectious disease experts recognize that because of Inadequate access to healthcare, nutrition deficiency and overcrowding among refugees has led to in an increased spread of TB within this group ( Surmieda MR, et al. Surveillance in evacuation camps after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines. MMWR. CDC Surveill Summ. 1992;41:963.).   Literature has recorded a four fold increase in TB dur­ing the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1991 and during the civil war and famine in Somalia in 1991-92, the incidence of TB increased four-fold.   In Somali refugees of 1985, 26% of deaths were attributable to TB.  

Malnutrition, over crowding, poor monitoring and access to health care some of the factors for transmission, mor­bidity, and mortality of TB in displaced peoples.   Currently, TB and particularly MDR TB poses huge health threat in India.  The Directorate of Health should pro-actively consider diagnoses, management and control of TB among the flood affected community.   Ensuring continuity of care of previously known cases should be a top priority.  The second most important priority should be detection and management of new cases.   (Epidemics After Natural Disasters, David M. Lemonick, MD, FAAEP, FACEP
Based on a presentation at the 2011 AAPS Annual Scientific Meeting, Tysons Corner, VA, June 21-22)

Meningitis:  It is well recognised that meningococcal meningitides is transmitted from person to person, particularly in situations of crowding.   WHO (2005 & 2006) has reported cases and deaths from meningitis among those displaced in Aceh and Pakistan.  Large outbreaks have not been recently reported in disaster-affected populations but are well-documented in populations displaced by conflict. 

Prompt response with antimicrobial prophylaxis, as occurred in Aceh and Pakistan, can interrupt transmission. Large outbreaks have not been recently reported in disaster-affected populations but are well-documented in populations displaced by conflict.    Haj immunisation programme may provide protection to those already immunised but serious consideration should be given to non-immunised population at risk.

Acute respiratory infections (ARI) are a major cause of illness and death among
displaced populations.  Elderly population of the age of 65, people with certain long term conditions and children <5 years of age are the risk groups.   Some of the factors linked to increased risks of death have been lack of access to health services and availability or affordability of antimicrobial agents for treatment.   As already mentioned above that over crowding as result of displacement from floods and severe winter conditions will be a major factor for increase in ARI and deaths this winter.   In addition to this,
exposure to open-flame cooking and malnutrition, will also contribute to morbidity and mortality from ARI.    

Evidence of Disaster Related ARI deaths:  In 2004 tsunami, ARI was responsible for most of the deaths among survivors of Aceh.    A four fold increase in the incidence of ARI was recorded in Nicaragua in the month fol­lowing Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

It may be difficult for any health service to consider management and preparation for all documented ARI.  It is recommended that plans should be drawn up to reduce impact from seasonal influenza and Streptococcal  pneumoniae in high risk population.   Serious consideration should be given to rehabilitation programmes and community based initiatives for ‘keeping well-keeping warm.’  

Polio:  While India has been declared polio free, continued efforts should be made to provide polio immunisations.  Pakistan is one of the three countries where polio is still endemic.   Because of close proximity of Kashmir region with Pakistan and challenges from flood displacement, polio monitoring and immunisations should continued in robust manner.   

Mental Health:

All disasters will cause both emotional and physical trauma.  Most health systems of developing countries are poorly prepared for managing mental health problems of the displaced population as a direct result of stress, fatigue and poor living conditions.

Various reports attribute a major health hazard of floods to mental stress or psychological distress due to exposure to extreme disaster events.  People who have experienced devastating floods will have seen loss or injury to their families, destruction of their homes and business, loss of employment and economic stability, and exacerbation of personal health problems.  It is recognised the floods pose long-term psychological impact on the victims.   In developing countries most people do not have insurance or savings to repair their homes, restart their business resulting in mental trauma and psychological challenges.  Post-flood recovery in Kashmir is going to be prolonged.    Common mental disorders will be anger because of delayed or poor support from the system for rebuilding their lives, anxiety about managing and supporting family and finance, depression in many cases, hopelessness and lethargy, sleep deprivation and hyperactivity.  Little attention is paid to behaviour changes in children and female family members.

Post-disaster management plan should consider providing appropriate support to manage mental health of the affected population through the health system by provision of mental health counsellors, emotional support through community networks mohallas and trained volunteers from NGOs.  In severe cases, access to expert Psychological Services should be available.  Local authorities should consider community assurance programmes to the victims who would be worried about future floods.  Rapid rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes, support for clean-up and employment generation could be enabling factors for reduction in anxiety and depression.  Some experts also identify increase in exacerbations in people suffering from hypertension and cardiovascular diseases as a result of increased in stress post flooding.

Recommendation 5:

1.  Focus should be on managing the health needs of the surviving disaster-affected populations.
2.  Keep infectious disease control programme active and effective.
3.  Continue to provide public health education and support for the affected community and improve provision of water treatment and sanitation.
4.  Prepare and implement a robust winter pressure plan to manage many of the post disaster health problems with focus on reduction of morbidity and mortality.
5.  Assure access to primary healthcare services and continue surveillance of communicable diseases. 
6.  Provision of a robust and effective mental health support system.
Next Steps
Jammu and Kashmir
Proposed Action
Lead Person(s) Responsible
Pilot project for managing seasonal influenza and pneumococcal infections in affected communities.
It is proposed to pilot immunisation of upto 1000 at risk people for seasonal influenza and pneumococcal (Streptococcus pneumoniae) as soon as possible this winter.  The project should be undertaken in partnership with Directorate of Health – Kashmir and local NGOs.  Results and outcomes should be monitored with similar weighted unvaccinated population.
Funding will be raised by Justice Markandey Katju and Mr G H Kaloo.
Action:  Directorate of Health to provide information on current market cost of the above vaccines and review its capacity and ability to deliver the project in or around Kashmir Valley.

Dr Rehana Kousar and team members.
NGO lead:  Mr G H Kaloo.
Dr Peter Patel to advice on planning and KPI.
Community Support programme – ‘Keeping Warm – Keeping Well’  for winter ending March 2015.
Action:  Survey the needs for blankets, food and warm clothes for the affected community.  It is proposed that Mr G H Kaloo and local NGOs will carry out needs assessment for the above.  Based on the needs assessment and prioritisation, Justice Katju will appeal for funds for purchase of appropriate goods and support and Mr G H Kaloo with the support of local NGO volunteers distribute the aid to the displaced community.
NGO volunteers will measure impact of the support at the end of March 2015 by surveys and face to face interviews of the beneficiaries.

Mr G H Kaloo to work with NGOs and Directorate of Health and Mr Katju.
Community Disaster Preparedness Training Centre & Course
The key weakness identified from Kashnir 2014 floods disaster was absence of community preparedness for floods and understanding their responsibilities following disaster warnings.
It is proposed to start a ‘Community Disaster Preparedness Course’ for disaster mitigation.  The project will aim to establish a regional Training Centre with focus on training the trainers in the first instance.  The trainers then will systematically train the communities at risk. 
Action:  Outline plan for the course material to be provided by end of Feb. 2015 by P Patel.  Mr G H Kaloo to work with local NGOs and State Disaster Management Team to agree to joint working.  It is proposed to train  1. Around 50 trainers by end of September 2015  2.  Trainers to train 25 communities and carry out evaluation of training through agreed KPIs.

Dr Peter Patel Course lead
Mr G H Kaloo – Regional NGO lead.
J & K State lead to be identified.

Faculty of Disaster Medicine
1.  It has been agreed that Directorate of Health will establish a training Faculty for Disaster Medicine for Jammu and Kashmir in partnership with the New Delhi Faculty for Disaster Medicine.   An invitation to join as the founder members of Indian Faculty of Disaster Medicine has been accepted by Dr Saleem-ul-Rehman (Director) and a team of 4 doctors have from the Directorate of Health have been nominated to lead this project.  There are no dedicated Institutes or training courses available in Asia for Disaster Medicine.   Faculty of Disaster Medicine is a project of ‘Saving Lives’ programme of UK and is a long term project to build trained healthcare HR capacity and increase understanding of resource needs and management of all kinds of disasters.
Action:  Srinagar team to join development week-end 20- 22nd March in Pune for the Faculty.
2.  Disaster Management Training
Resulting from visit to RIHFW Dhobiwan, a request was made for Disaster Management Trainers.  Peter Patel agreed to provide a group of trainers in 2015 as part of development the Faculty for Disaster Management.   
Action:  P Patel to liaise with team from Dhobiwan Centre to develop the programme.
 Dr Peter Patel to provide pocket book for BLS ‘aid memoire’ prepared for Goa.

Dr Peter Patel
Justice M Katju
Dr Naresh Trehane – Medanta,  New Delhi
Dr Yatin Mehta – Medanta, New Delhi
Dr Rehana Kousar and team, Srinagar

Dr Peter Patel for ‘Saving Lives’
Lead from Dhobiwan to be agreed.

Provision of Community Mobile Clinic
A brief meeting was held with Dr Ludana, Clinical Lead of regional NGO.  The lead and the NGO were recommended by Mr G S Kaloo and Dr Rehana Kousar.  It was agreed that Dr Ludana will make a business case for need of a mobile Clinic for provision of urgent care, field screening service and health education of people living in remote communities.  It was agreed that the project will work in partnership with the local health services.
Action:  Dr  Peter Patel to evaluate the business case.  Subject to approval by  ‘Saving Lives’ advisors and establishing local needs, PP to raise funds for provision of a 4 x 4 off road vehicle for use as Community Mobile Clinic.

Dr Ludana
G H Kaloo
Justice M Katju
Dr Rehana Kausar for the Directorate.

Next Steps
New Delhi
Proposed Action
Lead Person(s) Responsible
Actions for Kashmir – See above
Asif Azmi
Justice M Katju
Mr G H Kaloo
Dr Peter Patel
Establish Faculty for Disaster Medicine – New Delhi.
New Delhi Faculty to be lead for all future faculties in the north of India.  Immediate partner – Jammu and Kashmir Faculty of Disaster Medicine.
Justice M Katju and Dr Naresh Trehan  from Medanta-Medicity have been invited to become trustees of ‘Saving Lives – India Foundation’ and have accepted.

Peter Patel and Ravi Varma to formalise the invitation by letter.
 Pune founder team have been informed and all founder team members have welcomed the proposal.  Dr Yateen Mehta has been appointed by Medanta-Medicity to lead on the project. 

Actions:  Dr Peter Patel to provide a briefing paper for Justice Katju and Asif Azmi.  Dr Peter Patel to provide details of the proposed launch of the Faculty in Pune on 20-22 March 2015.   Final plan to be agreed with Pune Management team by 15th December and circulated to all other partners.

Invitation to potential delegates for launch programme to go out by 10th January 2015. Invitation to go to Dr Pawar Vats – Public Health for Food Safety, New Delhi
Invitation to go to Mrs Vats – Public Health Lead, Edinburgh.  Prof Keith Porter, Royal College of Surgeons – Edinburgh for follow up for Pre-hospital Emergency Course.

Peter Patel