Sunday, July 14, 2013

Exchange principles in the Analysis of a Fallen Society

       Exchange theories have a wide scope if applied to the study of social entities at various levels.They can be used to study a wide range of phenomenon from conflict to collaboration helping us view rise and fall of societies at various levels. The major component of exchange principle that sets it apart as a sociological analysis is the importance it places on socially significant exchanges and the satisfaction attained through such relationships. In this article I propose to apply exchange principles to analyse the fall of a historical society. In order to identify such phenomenon and study them in societies, we have to arrive at certain governing principles of exchange with which we propose to study the society.

                   (i)The genera of the commodity might be either explicit(commodities valued for their
                       economic value) or implicit(commodities valued for their social value).
                    (ii)The exchanges need not be for the same genera of the commodity offered. This we
                        can call as cross exchange. 
                   (iii)A commodity can have both economic and social value. In an exchange relationship it
                        is valued for either one of these values or for both the values.
                   (iii)Peter Michel Blau's principles of exchange conflict.

Easter Island is a Polynesian Island which was discovered by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Day (April 5, 1722). Archaeological evidence suggest that the first human settlements took place at around 900 AD. Today it is a well known tourist spot for its gigantic stone statues called moai. These statues represent the ancestors of the Polynesian people living on the island who are known as Rapa Nui. The reasons for the collapse of the Polynesian society that thrived in Easter Island are made clearer when examined through the glasses of exchange principles .
  There are 397 moai spread through out the island erected on stone platforms called ahu. The size of the moai seemed to have increased over time which either indicate prosperity and competition among the clans or an increasing need among the people to convince their ancestors to hear their prayers. The island was the home of around 12 clans. The island was well divided among the clans. Because of this division of the island among the clans the resources were also extensively divided. Land held by one of the clans had the necessary rock for building the statue whereas another clan possessed the best port in the island and so on. These circumstances indicate the necessity of an extensive social network among the clans for their mere survival. Archaeological evidence suggest the presence of social stratification in the society. There must have been extensive cross exchanges taking place, indicated by the heavy economic losses that the people would have had to incur in building the moai which had no explicit value.
 The dependence among the clans indicate that the exhaustion of any one of the resources or a clog in the exchange between them would have lead to a catastrophe in that society. Historical evidence indicate that this island was rich in biodiversity. This island is known to have housed the largest palm trees known to man. Because of various reasons the resources of the island depleted over  time. One of  the first European accounts of the island talk about the people of the island visiting a French ship anchored nearby in leaky canoes and the captain recalls ""All the natives repeated often and excitedly the word miru and became impatient because they saw that we did not understand it: this word is the name of the timber used by Polynesians to make their canoes. This was what they wanted most, and they used every means to make us understand this . ..". The analysis of the garbage dumps of the island also indicate such a situation. In the course of building the moai the people of the island must have destroyed the biodiversity of the island.
  As time went by the people of the island must have encountered the lack of resources which they enjoyed previously. They must have turned to their chiefs and preists for help( indicated by the increase in the size of moai). When the chiefs and priests were not able to full fill their promises they were overthrown by military leaders called matatoa. After the fall of the chiefs and the priests people of the island engaged in dismounting and breaking the maoi. By 1868 all moai had been toppled in fights between the clans.By 1872, after an epidemic of small pox and an abduction of 1500 people by about two dozen Peruvian ships only 111 islanders were left in Easter.
     Here one of Blau's conflict principles which imply that 'experiences of deprivation by subordinates in exchanges with super ordinates would cause  conflict' is seen at work.  We can infer from this scenario that an imbalance or a clog in exchange relationships in a society might cause massive damage to the social structure of that society. All the happenings at Easter Island indicate the importance of cross exchange. Moai were merely religious structures whose constructions were undertaken at the cost of their own destruction by the the Rapa Nui. Initially its construction brought together all the clans but as the resources depleted the people must have been forced to choose between the social and biological needs. We could conceive the cognitive dissonance that the people people would have faced(after the destruction of their biodiversity) whether to give up their hard earned food to build Moai, who would in turn bring prosperity if pleased. We also see a queer phenomenon where the failure of exchange between the ancestors(moai) and the people lead to the toppling of the moai. The above analysis prove the importance of social exchanges and that the collapse of a solitary society is not coused by the mere failure of economic exchanges.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Indian Cricket: Blemish face with an Aureole around

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran.

As a born Indian I'm not supposed to say that I dislike Cricket. May be not the game in itself but by the way it is played here. So, by the way, how is it played here in India? Just a play or a fair play?

What we have made is a true religion out of cricket. The new religion has millions of followers and sympathizers for various cults. They see cricket as a matter of national and regional pride; they preach, unite and fight for it. They fall victims to the bloody traps of cults created by the cricket industry, waste their life and energy for something that has always remained a mirage - means the reality is always something else unknown to masses, in the oblivion. And IPL has become a festival of such a religious affiliation! So, anyone questioning anything related to this religion is considered as infidels and frowned upon.

As a society, our memory is very short. We are not aliens to scams and scandals too. We have seen all types and forms of corrupt practices in all walks of life. So, the present-day news breakers of betting and match-fixing scandal will move off our memory very soon. Indian cricket and IPL will be untainted as ever because we have seen thousands of such issues popping out now and then and fading off in the oblivion. Anyone remember why Mr. Lalit Modi was kicked off from the IPL? Why was Mr. Dalmia a controversial figure at the BCCI?

IPL is a high-end entertainment grabbing masses, but its darker side is very less known. Nor people are interested to know more about the reality. Young students who form a huge chunk of the fan lot, never wants to know what their stars and the amusements do to them. If a movie fails to entertain and live up to its hype, we cannot say we feel cheated. But sabotaging the audience's right to a fair game free of any corrupt practices should definitely considered a case of cheating. The IPL is publicized as a fund-raising project of the BCCI. However, it has never said anything about for whom are the funds raised. The event helps the rich to become richer by exploiting the interest of cricket lovers. 

It is an utter amazement to note how things are taken for granted in India for the sake of cricket. The BCCI, ever since its foundation in 1928 has remained as a "private club consortium" or a sports association. It has its own governing body and autonomy. It has the authority to select players, umpires and officials to participate in international events and exercises total control over them. Without its recognition, no competitive cricket involving BCCI-contracted Indian players can be hosted within or outside the country. Being an apex governing body of cricket in India, there has never been an attempt to undertake it directly by the Sports ministry or to make it a constitutionally recognised body. Nor it is accountable to the constitution of India. 

The administrators of the BCCI are obviously the bigwigs from the corporate houses and politics. Mr. N.Srinivasan, the current president, is the managing director of India cements Limited. He was earlier the secretary of the board. He owns the Chennai Super Kings franchise in IPL. Incredible isn't it? Until 2008, BCCI regulation, Clause 6.2.4 stated that "no administrator of BCCI could have had, directly or indirectly, any commercial interest in the matches or events conducted by the cricket board". Later, after the start of IPL in 2007, the clause was amended to give unfavorable benefit to BCCI members such that they can own stakes in the IPL franchise. The case against Mr. Srinivasan on the grounds of conflict of interest is still pending in the Supreme Court.

His son-in-law Mr. Meiyappan, who was the Team principal of CSK, has now been arrested by the police for his alleged contacts with an actor who served as a conduit for bookies. This raises questions about both the nature of his indulgences in the betting and match-fixing scam and the extent to which the father-in-law was aware of these. Other rules are bent too. Two players charged with taking drugs in a party were allowed to take part in the IPL matches. 

This is a serious crisis of credibility that Indian cricket is facing. The world's richest cricket board BCCI is always seen as a golden duck by business tycoons, politicians and fixers who are interested only in power and money. The IPL - packaging entertainment as a sport with the ultimate aim of making money has a plenty of scope for the shady dealings of the kind being unearthed now. There is absolutely no transparency in the IPL and the BCCI, to which allegations the body responded some years back by pointing out Lalit Modi, whose brainchild the IPL was. No other actions were taken against other culprits in and outside the body. The sports ministry must push in reforms and take over plans of the BCCI to restore public confidence on the cricket in India and to save the game. Cricket fans must realise the other side of how the sport passion and the interest of the masses are exploited. Only then, cricket in India will be a fair play. The bright aureole around must not a plausible explanation to undermine the blemished face of Indian cricket.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sociology of Arts

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran.

Being a student of Sociology, I habitually tend to disagree with people speaking about some specific subject commonsensically. I don't say that the commonsense is absolutely not sociological, but many of the everyday common ideas are biased and unscientific. A recent discussion with one of my friend about 'Arts' and paintings gave me some space to retrospect my understanding about them and induced me to look for sociological side to the arts and its relation to cultures.

A dictionary defines  'Art' as "the quality, procustion, expression, or realm of what is beautiful or of more than ordinary significance; the class of object subject to aesthetic criteria" (The Random House College Dictionary, 1982, p.76). Drawing on the same dictionary, 'Aesthetics' involves "...the qualities perceived in the works of art...; the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty" (p.22). However, it is possible for a work of art to attract our attention, direct our thoughts, and have more than ordinary significance with out being judged as beautiful by most people who experience that creation. Pablo Picasso's "Guernica", a famous painting of the Spanish civil war, comes to our mind as a scene, while not beautiful, is indisputably moving, thus work of art. 

Is art like religion a 'cultural universal'?  

Many cultures even lack a word for art. Yet even without such a word, people everywhere do associate an aesthetic experience -  sense of beauty, appreciation, harmony, and pleasure with objects and events having certain quality. The Bamana people of Mali have a word (like ‘art’) for something that attracts your attention, catches your eye and directs your thoughts (Ezra 1986). Among the Yoruba of Nigeria, the word for art, ona, encompasses the design made on objects, the art objects themselves and the profession of the creators of such works. For two Yoruba lineages of leather workers, Otunisona and Osiisona, the suffix-ona in their names denotes art (Adepegba 1991).
People in all cultures do seem to associate an aesthetic experience with certain objects and events. Experiencing art involves feelings as well as appreciation of the form. The 'arts' include the visual arts, literature (both oral and writings), music and theatre arts. These manifestations of human creativity are called as 'expressive culture'. People express themselves creatively in dance, music, song, painting, sculpture, pottery, cloth, story telling, verse, prose, drama, comedy, etc. Folk art, music and lore refers to the expressive cult of the ordinary, usually the poor and the rural people.

The arts are part of culture and aesthetic judgements depend, at least to an extent, on cultural background. The aesthetic value, which distinguishes forms of art, is defined only by culture. Sociological and anthropological definition of culture broadens the study of humanities from fine arts and elite arts to popular and folk arts and the creative expressions of the masses. Community standards judge the completeness and mastery displayed in a work of art. Standards may be maintained informally in society or by specialists such as art critics. Myths, legends, tales and storytelling play important roles in transmitting culture and preserving traditions. 

Here comes an another grasp too. That which is aesthetically pleasing is perceived with the senses. Usually, we restrict the scope of art to something that can be either seen or heard. But many others might define art more broadly to include things that can be smelled (scents, fragrances), tasted (recipes), or touched (cloth textures).  

Is art and life the same?

Initially, the patronage of rich enabled people to become professional musicians, composers, sculptors and artists. Later, the specialist institutions such as art schools were developed to train future generations of cultural specialists. Other institutions such as theatres, art galleries, and concert halls were established to make cultural products more widely available. Culture was therefore separated or differentiated from other aspects of life. It was produced by specialists, trained in particular institutions and was consumed in specific places. This formed the basis for distinguishing between folk culture (which could be found among ordinary people) and high culture, which was the product of these specialist individuals and institutions. Culture was, thus, always differentiated from other areas of life.

There have been attempts to break down the division between high culture and everyday life. Avant-garde artists have tried to shock people out of their cultural complacency by portraying everyday objects as art. Mascel Duchamp (1917) displayed a urinal as a work of art with the title ‘Fountain’. He attributed the work to the sanitary engineer who designed the urinal. As modernity progressed, a new ‘Popular culture’ developed, which tried to integrate the aspects of everyday life into high culture arts but nothing notable here too.

Ruling Class art

May it be any society or period, the art tend to serve the ideological interest of the ruling class. The classic example would be the oil painting, the dominant medium for painters between 1500 to 1900AD. John Berger in his book ‘Ways of Seeing’ (1972) says that it came to reflect the world view of the ruling class. That period which was ultimately determined by new attitudes to property and exchange, found its visual expression in the oil painting. Oil has special characteristics that made them particularly suitable for portraying ruling class ideology. Berger says oil painting has a special ability to render the tangibility, texture, the lustre, the solidity of what it depicts. It defines the real as that which you can put your hands on. This was important because oil panting came to be primarily concerned with the depiction of wealth or property. Because of the sense of tangibility that oil painting can produce, it gave substance to the sense of ownership that the ruling class wanted to portray in their paintings. As capitalistic society developed, painting focussed more on wealth and power of the ruling class. They were able to impose their own view of the world, simply because it was very largely they who commissioned the paintings. It was more important to the buyers of the paintings that they portrayed them and their wealth in the way they wanted. 

‘Mr. and Mrs. Andrews’ by Thomas Gainsborough
Still life paintings were more obvious about possessions. They tended to portray such things as table laden with luxurious food as testament to the high living of those who commissioned them. Paintings of animals were also popular. However, they were not usual animals in the wild but livestock whose pedigree is emphasised as a proof of their value. Landscapes were used to celebrate the property of rich. Consider the case of this nineteenth century painting ‘Mr. and Mrs. Andrews’ by Gainsborough. Andrews insisted on being included in the landscape which featured land owned by them. They are land owners and their proprietary attitude towards what surrounds them is visible in their stance and their expression.

Not all the oil paintings portrayed only rich. Some that portrayed poor reflect the ruling class ideology too. Pictures of ‘low life’ such as paintings of debauched groups in taverns were popular with the growing bourgeoisie in the 16th to 19th century.  The point of such pictures, was to tell a moral tale about how the rich deserved their success while the poor had only themselves to blame for their misfortunes. Berger says that the paintings lent plausibility to a sentimental lie – namely that it was the honest and hard working who prospered and that the good-for-nothings deservedly had nothing. Some paintings were able to transcend the narrow concerns of the bourgeoisie too.

The art go on changing, although certain art forms have survived test of time for years. In today's world, a huge 'arts and leisure' industry links western and non-western art forms (selectively) in an integral network with both aesthetic and commercial dimensions. And sociological study of arts is an enchanting endeavor, charmed by the diversity for forms and aesthetic sense you find in different cultures across times. An endless journey indeed!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

இது வீட்டு நூல், நாட்டு நூல், உலக நூல்

மு. பெரியசாமி

(இக்கட்டுரையின் தலைப்பு திருக்குறளின் பொதுமைத்தன்மைப் பற்றி திரு. வி. கலியாணசுந்தரனார் அவர்கள் கூறிய கருத்து ஆகும் )

திருக்குறள், தமிழின் மற்ற அனைத்து நூல்களையும் விட தனிப்பெருமையும் சிறப்பும் வாய்ந்த நூல் ஆகும். ஏனென்றால் சுமார் 60க்கும் மேற்பட்ட உலக மொழிகளில் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ள சிறப்புமிக்க நூல் திருக்குறள். முதன்முதலில் இலத்தீன் மொழியில் C.J. பெஸ்கி (வீரமாமுனிவர்) என்பவரால் 1730ல் திருக்குறள் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டது. அன்று முதல் இன்று வரை பலரால் பல மொழிகளில் இன்றும் மொழிபெயர்ப்பு செய்யப்பட்டு வருகின்றது.
 திருக்குறளின் பெருமையை பற்றி பேசாத தமிழறிஞர்கள் இல்லை என்றே கூறலாம். சங்க கால புலவர்களான கபிலர், நக்கீரர், ஔவையார், சீத்தலை சாத்தனார் என அப்பொழுதே இதன் சிறப்பை பலர் வியந்து பாராட்டியுள்ளனர்.

"திருக்குறள் ஒன்றே போதும் உனக்கு அறிவு உண்டாக்க; ஒழுக்கத்தை கற்பித்துக் கொடுக்க; உலக ஞானம் ஏற்பட" என்கிறார் பெரியார்.
நோபல் பரிசு பெற்ற ஆல்பர்ட் ஸ்வைட்சர் என்னும் அறிஞரோ, திருக்குறளை வாழ்வுக்குரிய அன்புநெறியை கூறும் உயர்ந்த நூல் என்றும், உயர்ந்த ஞானத்தை புகட்டும் உயர்மொழிகளின் தொகுப்பு இதுபோல் உலக இலக்கியத்தில்  இல்லை என்றும் கூறிப் போற்றியுள்ளார். இப்படி பலர் திருக்குறளைப்பற்றி கூறிய புகழுரைகளை ஒரு பெரும் நூலாகவே தொகுக்கலாம். இத்தகு புகழுக்கு மிக முக்கிய காரணம் திருக்குறளின் எளிமை மற்றும் செறிவு மிகுந்த கருத்துக்கள்தான். பழந்தமிழ் இலக்கியங்களில் தலைசிறந்த நீதி நூல் திருக்குறள் என்றால் அது மிகையாகது.

உலகப்பொதுமறை, பொய்யாமொழி, வாயுறை வாழ்த்து, முப்பால், தமிழ்மறை, என பல பெயர்களில் திருக்குறள் போற்றப்படுகிறது. இதில் விந்தை என்னவென்றால் திருக்குறள் என்பதும் அதனை புகழ்ந்து கூறப்படும் பெயர்களில் ஒன்று. அதன் இயற்பெயர் என்னவென்று இன்னும் அறியப்படவில்லை. இதை இயற்றியவரின் பெயரான திருவள்ளுவர் என்பதும் அவரது இயற்பெயர் கிடையாது. அவரைபற்றிய வரலாறும் இன்னும் அறியப்படவில்லை. ஆனால் அவரைபற்றிய புனைக்கதைகள் பல உண்டு. அவரைப்பற்றி இதுவரை அறிந்தவை என்னவென்றால் அவர் ஒரு தமிழ்ப்புலவர் என்பதும் தமிழகத்தில் வாழ்ந்தவர் என்பது மட்டும்தான். இன்று நாம் ஓவியங்களிலும், சிற்பங்களிலும் கானும் உருவமும் திருவள்ளுவரைப் பற்றிய கற்பனை உருவமே ஆகும். திருக்குறளின் காலமும் இன்னது என்று சரியாக வரையறுக்கப்பட முடியவில்லை. அது சங்க காலத்தைச் சேர்ந்த நூல் என்றும், கி.மு. 30ம் நூற்றாண்டில் இயற்றப்பட்டது என்றும் பலர் கூறுகின்றனர். இவற்றையெல்லாம் கடந்து நிற்கும் அதன் பெரும்புகழுக்கு அதனுடைய காலம் மாறாத உண்மை நெறி, ஆழமான கருத்துக்கள், கவிச்சுவை, எளிமை ஆகியன குறிப்பிடத்தக்க காரணங்களாகும். அதேபோல் எவ்வித சார்புமற்ற அதன் பொதுமைபண்பு (objectivity) மிக முக்கியமானதாகும். வள்ளுவர் எந்தவொரு மதத்தைபற்றியோ, இனத்தைபற்றியோ, நாட்டைபற்றியோ, மன்னனைப்பற்றியோ தனது திருக்குறளில் குறிப்பிடவே இல்லை. அந்த அளவிற்கு பரந்த மனப்பாங்கோடு குறளை இயற்றியுள்ளார். அதனால்தான் இன்றும் இந்துக்கள், இசுலாமியர்கள், சமணர்கள், பௌத்தர்கள், கிறித்துவர்கள் என பல சமயத்தாரும் திருக்குறளை சொந்தம் கொண்டாடுகின்றனர். 

இதுபோல் அக்காலத்தின் இலக்கிய மரபுகளை மீறி புதுமை படைத்த நூல் திருக்குறள். 'பிறப்பால் அனைவரும் சமம்' என்னும் சமத்துவ கொள்கையை பறைசாற்றிய நூல் திருக்குறள். எந்த ஒரு கருத்தையும் ஆராய்ந்து அதன் உண்மையை உணர வேண்டும் என்னும் பகுத்தறிவை பேசிய நூல் திருக்குறள். அக்காலத்திலேயே 'மது அருந்துவது கூடாது' என்கிற சமூக பொறுப்புணர்வை வெளிப்படுத்திய நூல் திருக்குறள். இப்படி ஒரு மனிதன் எப்படி இருக்க வேண்டும், ஒரு மன்னன் எப்படி இருக்க வேண்டும், ஒரு சமுதாயம் எப்படி இருக்க வேண்டும் என பலதரப்பினரின் கடமைகளை உணர்த்தும் நூல் திருக்குறள். இவ்வாறு பல சமூக கருத்துக்களை உள்ளடக்கியது திருக்குறள்.

நாம் ஒரு விஷயத்தை கவனிக்க வேண்டும், இப்படிப்பட்ட ஆழமான கருத்துக்கள் முழுக்கவும் ஒரு தனிமனிதனின் உருவாக்கம் மட்டுமே அன்று, அது அந்த சமுதாயத்தில் பரவியிருந்த கருத்துக்களின் வெளிப்பாடு. அப்படிப்பட்ட  சமுதாயம் எவ்வளவு பண்பட்டதாக இருந்திருக்க வேண்டும் என்பதை நாம் சிந்தித்துப் பார்க்கவேண்டும். அதன் வழித்தோன்றிய சமுதாயமான நம் சமுதாயத்தை நாம் இன்று எப்படிப்பட்டதாக மாற்றிவைத்திருக்கின்றோம். இப்படி ஒரு நூலை இயற்றிய வள்ளுவருக்கு கோட்டமும் சிலையும் அமைத்ததோடு சரி (அவைகளின் நிலைமையும் என்னவென்பதை, அங்கு செல்பவர்கள் கண்கூடாக பார்க்கலாம்). இவ்வளவு அற்புதமான நூலையும் அதன் செறிவான கருத்துக்களையும்  நாம் நம்முடைய சமூகத்தில் எந்த இடத்தில் வைத்திருக்கின்றோம். நம்மில் எத்தனை பேருக்கு குறைந்தது 10 திருக்குறளை அதன் அர்த்தத்துடன் தெரியும்? தேசிய நூலாகவே அறிவிக்க தேவையான அனைத்து தகுதிகளையும் உடைய திருக்குறளுக்கு நாம் அளிக்கும் முக்கியத்துவம் என்ன? சாக்கிரட்டீஸ், பிளேட்டோ, அரிஸ்டாட்டில், கான்பூசியஸ், சேக்சுபியர் என பிற நாட்டு  அறிஞர்களை போற்றும் நாம், நம்  நாட்டு அறிஞர்களையும், தத்துவ ஞானிகளையும் என்று போற்ற போகிறோம். நாட்டுப்பற்று, மொழிப்பற்று என்று நாம் கூவுகிறோம், ஆனால் நம்முடைய நாட்டை சேர்ந்தவர் நம்முடைய மொழியை சேர்ந்தவர் என்றால் எப்பொழுதும் இளக்கார மனப்பான்மைதான். இதை எப்பொழுது மாற்றிக்கொள்ள போகின்றோம்.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Cancer: Looking beyond

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran.

Today is World Cancer Day. Cancer is not just a health problem, but has far-reaching repercussions - Social, economic, development and human rights.

During one of my visit to my home few years back, my grandfather was present there for a medical check-up and had serious complaints about his stomach. Then we were told that he is suspected with a possible stomach cancer by doctors and latter confirmed almost. Doctors told us that we were too late and pointed the healthy-walking man may collapse in few weeks. We did not lose hope and went for further treatments. I left home for hostel and came back after a month or so, I was shocked to see him. Then my next trip to home was for his funeral. It was exactly three months and I have no one now who would take me out in his scooter for a spin.

I thought that cancer was nothing but a death sentence, only to be dispelled as a myth latter. But the statistics may seem so, it accounts for 7.6 million deaths (13%) globally in 2008. Lung, stomach, liver, colon, breast and cervical cancer are the most occurring. It is important to recognise that cancer is not just a health issue. It has far-reaching social, economic, development and human rights repercussions. This is primarily because of the fact that about 47% of cancer cases and 55% of cancer deaths take place in less developed nations. It is also predicted that by 2030, 60-70% of the speculated 21.4 million new cancer cases annually will transpire in developing countries. 

As of now, around 85% of the 275,000 women who die every year from cervical cancer hail from developing countries. The survival rate of breast cancer is also poor in such countries. The report from The Lancet Oncology states that worldwide breast cancer incidence and mortality are expected to increase by 50 percent from 2002 and 2020 -- and those rates will be highest developing nations. Women often do not seek out screening, because they don't know that breast cancer treatments actually exist. Neither the diagnosing facilities are spread equitably. 

Cancer is also a cause and an effect of poverty. It negatively impacts families' propensity to bring in an income and save. Treatment costs are so exorbitant and with inequitable access to public health facilities, families are trapped in abject poverty. Lack of education and healthcare awareness increases the risk of late detection and dying from it. 

Throughout the developing world, most health systems are designed to cope with episodes of infectious disease. Most developing countries do not have the financial resources, facilities, equipment, technology, infrastructure, staff, or training to cope with chronic care for cancers. If left unaddressed, deaths from cancer in the developing world are forecast to grow to 6.7 million in 2015 and 8.9 million in 2030. In contrast, cancer deaths in wealthy countries are expected to remain fairly stable over the next twenty years.

With right strategies and facilities, it is said that one-third of cancer deaths can be prevented. Making the treatment affordable and available to everyone can be a significant step towards cancer. Private investments on researches on cancer cures must be encouraged. Whole humanity must take up the responsibility. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Will we ever really be free?

Hello, I'm glad to be the latest addition to the blogging team. I shall do my best to contribute cartoons as regularly as possible. Here's hoping for an increased readership :)
Sidharth Ravi
P.S : Feel free to comment

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Raghunath Nageswaran (Guest Author)
2nd BA Economics,
Loyola College.

Connectivity and life have become so interwoven that we are bound to associate ourselves closely with people, in reality and in virtual terms too. We get annoyed if the line gets disconnected when we talk over the phone, when we chat on face-book and when we do other ‘important’ activities of that ilk. Here it goes. A leading journal reported that there are in this country, 51 million subscribers to Facebook, 31.3 million to YouTube and 16 million to Twitter. Very recently, IMRB and Internet and Mobile Association of India pegs India’s internet user base to 150 million by the end of this year. Many teenagers consider it embarrassing not to have a Facebook or Twitter account. The virtual elements seem to define connectivity and socializing in better terms. But the matter of the fact is that we are utterly disconnected from the reality, affected by privacy syndrome and over-confidentiality crisis. The ‘disconnection’ assumes serious proportions when it is deeply ingrained in the lives of those who are subject to penury. The celebratory stories of progress and prosperity in the country are bogus, I’d say. Because, that is something which is not compatible with the lives of the marginalised. But, we frantically talk of the ‘majority ’principle, which is highly vulnerable to malleability .The
welfare projects spanning decades that have been undertaken have culminated in serious displacements and disconnections. In the period 1950- 90, nearly 26 million Indians got displaced due to the dams and canal projects, thermal power projects, mining and sanctuary projects, and such displacements are development- driven. In the name of development projects these people are evicted from their places, after their lands are acquired. The displacement we are talking about includes just the land – related ones. They are deprived of compensation, and even if they are compensated, they get nothing more than peanuts. There are resource – related, calamity – driven and conflict - driven displacements too. Forced eviction is a serious human rights violation as per the UN protocols. But, as I mentioned earlier these projects wear the garb of patriotism, the policy makers claiming that these measures are of immense national interest. I’ll throw some numbers at you in this regard.

1) On a state-by-state basis, we found thatWest Bengal has 7 millions of the total number of 60 million (Fernandes, et al. 2006) and Assam has 1.9 million (Fernandes and Bharali 2006). The ongoing study carried out in Gujarat by the Centre for Culture and Development points to some 7 million people in that State (Lobo and Kumar 2007).

2) The tribals represented 8.08 per cent of India’s total population in 1991, but are estimated to represent much more. Some 40 per cent of the DPs/PAPs (Fernandes 2007). At least 20 percent are Dalits (Mahapatra 1994) and a big proportion of the rest are other assetless rural poor like marginal farmers, poor fishermen, and quarry workers.

Between 1990 and 2000 alone, nearly 10 million across the world people were caught in the trap of displacement. The irony is that multitude of projects initiated at the cost of the innocent and the desperate still remain unfinished. And majority of the displaced have not been rehabilitated, their lives speaks volumes about the state of misery in India. These people are completely disconnected from their lands, resources and even their homes. Today, many leave their places since agriculture has failed and seek refuge in urban areas, the result of which is reflected in the 2011 Census – Growth in Urban population outnumbers rural population growth for the first time in several decades. The MGNRGES was launched with a vision of curtailing this trend, but has shown progress only in patches. The farmer suicides in massive numbers have resulted in one of the greatest displacements in Indian history. The displacement issue in Jammu and Kashmir, in the neglected parts of North-east and even the ones sprung from Partition still remained unsettled. We are not able to offer minimum life security to millions in our country, how can we be exceedingly proud of our growth?

These issues are often sandwiched between figures, which fail to capture the seriousness of the issue completely. The Narmada Bachao Andolan, spearheaded by Medha Patkar caught the attention of the people. Such meaningful movements can demand legitimate actions from the part of the incumbency for the restoration of lives of such people who are pushed to the fringes. The cruelty of factionalism took its supreme form in Assam in July this year, causing a colossal displacement and disconnection. We consider the north-easterners aliens to the county at best, and consider them Chinese at worst. That is why our heart fails to bleed when people of that region, separated from the ‘mainland India’ suffer. The 4 lakh refugees, driven by the fear of mass killings left their homes, scurried to the refugee camps. Now they are disconnected from their land and resources. There was not a single OB van ferrying in that region to provide real-time coverage. The growing disconnect between the mass reality and the mass-media, as P.Sainath say, is evident from such painful happenings. The cruel face of ‘disconnection’ amongst the destitute matters more than our connectivity over social networking sites. Well, that too has become a matter of great attention as the images posted in those sites triggered an unprecedented exodus of the north-eastern people from the southern states. The effects of either forms of connectivity cannot be offset very easily. The solution lies in striking an ideal balance between the two, through the concerted efforts of the state and the masses.

Jai Hind!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Every rape does not count

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran

A majority of sexual crimes in India are not reported owing to the discrepancies in the reporting mechanism and the profit-driven media bothers less.

She did her level best to get her LIFE back after a ruthless attack I wish no one should ever undergo and succumbed to injuries eleven days latter with a glut of pain and agony. It is quite easy for everyone like me to think about and express the horror that she faced that night in a moving bus, but it is very uncertain to say whether any of us can bear that sort of cruelty and lead a normal life as before from next day. The fact that most of our women lead that kind of life is quite discomforting. The way we as individuals and as a whole society treat those known victims of sexual violence makes me feel that she had no best option than departing her life. Nor we have any option for people like her. Getting her LIFE back is complicated with us. Let her soul rest in peace with dignity at least.

For sheer convenience in understanding some of the facets of reality, let us keep aside all those issues and debating matters surrounding that incident especially the argument for capital punishments to perpetrators. If it is just to hang every offender, then many of our own fathers, brothers, kins and neighbours would be sent to gallows and maybe at that time we may loosen our stand in this regard. And a major proportion of people will still be left unpunished, as either their crimes are not reported or not proven guilty. You would have wondered ever since that terrible gang rape incident at the national capital territory and the students protest that followed was focused in the national media for the past 15 days, many new cases of sexual assaults and gang rapes are reported everyday. This makes an impression that many such cases of sexual violence are not reported and there exist some discrepancies in the reporting mechanism. Reporting a case here refers both filing a complaint and an FIR with the police and media's coverage on such incidents.

The incidence of rapes, sexual assaults and other sex related crimes are very high and ever present in India. They happen at almost all places - homes, schools, colleges, workplaces, public spaces, buses, trains, etc. There can be no causation nor any correlation to the Delhi gang rape incident and the rape and assault cases that were reported by media in the following days. One can expect that the mass protests for justice triggered by that incident would have created a caution among susceptible wrong doers at least to a minimum extent, which could have brought down the crime rate. There is no scope for a sudden rise in such crimes when such protests and police actions against them are narrated in news media. This brings us to an idea that only now some of those ever happening crimes are publicly reported and they pop up at the news streams aftermath the horrific incident that shook the whole nation.

There are several factors that often leads to unreporting. Firstly, a majority of victims themselves do not reveal such traumas to their own family members, friends, teachers, or guardian. In many cases, when those people remain to be perpetrators, we can hardly expect them to open up. Fear of ostracism and retaliation is innate to victims. Secondly, even if they dare to make a notice to their family members, in most cases they neither acknowledge nor make any first-effort. Let us always remember such crimes are inflicted not by aliens, they are known to victims in most of the cases and belong to the same or near-by locality. Family ties with the offender, or his social and political status, caste of both victim and the offender, all determine the family's reaction to the issue. In most of the cases, the social stigma relating to a police complaint identifying their women as victims is a distressing experience to the families. The fear of  disgracing reactions from their kins, friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc haunts them. They fear of possible disruptions in marital future of the victim and her societal recognition. This is much more relevant in our society, and not confined only to rural societies. So, families either kill the issue or rob the victim's or their own life in the name of dignity.

Thirdly, the law enforcement mechanisms to record a complaint and investigating it is in many instances messy. Sometimes the police are lethargic in filing an FIR or to initiate appropriate actions and investigations. Corrupted police officials manipulate the process which prolongs the judicial process for justice. There is excessive red tapism in such legal battles against the offences and are often a horrific experience to the victims. Life is very harsh is the victim is a dalit and the perpetrators are from so-called upper caste. A recent news of a minor dalit gang-rape victim's suicide note naming police officials for evading justice in Punjab is an example. It took 14 days for the local police to register a FIR and the officials haunted her often by asking to narrate what happened during that rape episode. In almost all the cases, the victims and their family face threats from the offenders and people in power. Yet another important factor in this regard is the medical examination of the victim. Shame and disgrace to victim and her family is inherent to it.

Sexual harassment in educational campuses often go unreported since they do not have proper systems in place to monitor students behaviour, counsel students, record complaints and initiate proceedings. The university system in India does not provide any explicit understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment. In some of the enlightened western universities, victims are specifically encouraged to file complaints even if they had themselves consumed alcohol or drugs at the time. Given the tendency here in our country to blame the victim for making herself vulnerable, this is of much scope. 

Fourthly, as renowned rural expert P. Sainath puts, our Indian media is politically free but is driven for and by profits. Media's role in catalysing the police action and speeding up judicial action by reporting sexual crimes is very significant. Specifically, visual media reaches people to kindle their sentiments and raises awareness in a short span of time. The nations fury on the Delhi gang rape case is an example. But our media is highly biased and there is a clear class differentiation in terms of the content they choose to report. Visual media is the worst hit. Commercialization has crept in and there is an apparent neglect of rural problems and happenings. News stories on entertainments such as cinema and political coverage is what earns them the aspired TRB rating for to grab advertisers. They choose up contents primarily based on their viewers ratings and likings. It is uncertain that our visual media will take up this rape issue more often after investigations are over, the matter has already faded away since the victim is no more. As a result, the news channels will find no interest in digging up the rape of a tribal woman of a remote village in Odisha, while Kingfisher's calender girl drive featuring the our country women in bikinis would be the priority.

Fifthly, there is less awareness among many of our women especially in rural areas to assert their rights and fight for justice. It is worth to analyse why the crime rates are higher in the state of Kerala with hundred percent literary comparing to other backward states. It may appear that the educational levels have nothing to do with the occurrence of crimes. But it is said that the due to their educational awareness and empowerment, people in Kerala report every crimes to the law enforcement agencies unlike other states. As a result, most of the cases of petty thefts to heinous crimes reach police stations and are documented.

The Union and state governments are in the process of drafting new policies and bills to enhance women safety and security. Several existing laws are to be amended too. It is high time for them to act on the law enforcement mechanisms that are in place. Effective systems for hassle-free reporting and complaints of sexual crimes are the need of the hour, which would require a total overhaul of the present reporting system.

The Delhi gang rape case has created mass effects which offers endless opportunities for policy makers and officials to rethink what's gone wrong. It is important to view security not solely as the prevention of high-profile attacks, but as a continuum that protects against various forms of sexual harassment and exploitation. She has given our women the courage to speak out such issues that each and everyone of them endure. Let us not lose this momentum, this commitment, this chance to retrospect what's the reality. Silence is no more a bliss.