Monthly Archives: February 2013

Make ‘Right to Die’ a Constitutional Right

We were not given the power to decide where to be born or who our parents will be. We did not have our say in deciding our sex, the colour of our skin or even whether we would be born as human beings or not. Nor we were given the choice to choose our parents on the basis of religion and language. But once born as human beings at least we should possess the right to decide the time to die. Hence just as the constitution has guaranteed the right to speech, right to organize, right to work, etc., we should have the right to die painlessly and peacefully and at the time of our choice.

Many people and government oppose this and if we attempt to die the government will book case for attempting suicide and punish with a jail term. Isn’t this silly, the government does not decide whether a person should be born or not. Then who has given it the authority to punish those who attempt suicide? Nobody wants to die without a cause. But if people feel that they do not want to live, they should have the freedom to extinguish their lives. But why should the government punish those who want to die? Because without people like you how can the government find fodder in the form of soldiers and policemen to oppress the commoners. How can it generate revenue and collect it, how can they get a regular supply of people to serve them and fulfill their sensual needs. Hence a coterie consisting of politicians, bureaucrats and corporates who need men and women for their personal interests make laws by which suicide is illegal. From time immemorial vested interest groups exploited, oppressed and got themselves served by others by following the carrot and stick policy, carrot in the form of food for bare subsistence and stick in the form of beating for not carry out their orders. The only hope of liberation for the oppressed was in the form of death. But if people are allowed to decide to die voluntarily to end their sufferings that would be a signal for others also that by death their misery will come to an end. Then there will be none to serve them, hence they not only made suicide illegal but also brought religion to tell them that suicide was a sin.

But the fact is all major religions of the world consider life on earth as temporary, suffering and sinful. For Hindus, Buddhists and Jains the goal is to achieve salvation or mukti which is not to be born again. If life in this world would have been so rosy the final goal of these religions would not had been liberation from rebirth. In India the Jain monks used to choose their death by fasting in a ritual called sallekanavrata. In olden day some people used to die by drowning in river Ganga and some by entering fire on eclipse day which they thought will enable them to enter heaven. In Mahabharatha we find the injured Bheeshma waiting till uttarayana (month of January) to leave his mortal remains. In the western world the stoics felt that the right to die was one of the basic right which gives man freedom. In Islam also the worldly life is considered as temporary and a test while the final goal is aakarath, wherein God on the basis of the deeds done by Muslims in this world will determine who can be sent to heaven and who to hell.

What will be the benefits of choosing one’s own death? Enormous, first of all the fear of death will go away and one can feel free from tension and anxiety and enjoy life. We experience a sense of freedom, fearlessness and look forward to the dawn of each day with enthusiasm. The fear of poverty, oppression, humiliation, pain and suffering vanishes as we now have the power to escape from these things by leaving our mortal bodies whenever we wish. Today majority of people are not in charge of their lives. It is their parents, spouse, boss, organizations, governments which control them. Many in fact have become walking corpse living mechanically due to the fact that there is no escape for them from this living hell. The constitutional right to die will lead to decrease in oppression and exploitation as people now has an escape route. The oppressor will think twice before he acts as if people die he will be at loss. Once this right is given every individual will be in charge of his life and can lead a dignified life. People will begin to appreciate and value love, relationship and will respect others rights and views.

Just because suicide is illegal has not stopped people from killing themselves. Every day we have news of people committing suicide by consuming poison, by hanging, by drowning, being run over by trains and from jumping from heights. By making suicide legal, people actually postpone their decision to die and think of ways and means to come out of their misery. The freedom to die anytime they wish without hindrance itself gives them the strength to live. Pharmaceutical companies should invent poisonous tablet which are cheap and effective. Once a tablet or two is taken within seconds one should fall into coma and within a minute or so should die peacefully. Mass production of these tablets will lower the cost and it should be made available in chemist shops for all persons without a prescription very cheaply, just like an aspirin tablet.

As most of us have realized and accept everything is predetermined. Just because suicide is made legal and poison is available freely does not mean that people will rush to commit suicide. As Sri Ramana Maharshi had said what is going to happen will happen even if we strongly will against it and that which is not going to happen will never happen even if we wish for it and try persistently. But one thing is certain, the decision to give freedom for people to choose their time of death will have huge psychological impact as mentioned above and would help every individual to lead a dignified life.

Empowering Women with Firearms

The recent death of a rape victim in Delhi and the public molestation of a girl by a mob in Guwahati sometimes earlier should open the eyes of Indian women about the menace of sexual exploitation against women in our country. This time there was protests all over the country, demand for enacting stringent law against rapists and quick delivery of justice for rape victims. But there was not a serious attempt to diagnose the reason behind this deep rooted malaise prevailing in India and suggest a practical remedy to face it.

Historical factors: One thing which women of India should keep in mind is that unlike men in other parts of the world, Indian men lack manliness which they hide in the cloak of non-violence. The proof for this is that India was under slavery for nearly thousand years till 1947 when the British left on their own probably embarrassed of the spineless attitude of the men here. Indian men don’t raise their fingers against the oppressive, corrupt and exploitative government and tolerate all kinds of abuse, humiliation and discrimination without a murmur. They are aware of their cowardice, weakness and helplessness and have over the years developed inferiority complex. They are frustrated a lot and given an opportunity demonstrate their pent-up anger and despair against soft targets like women, economically and politically weak communities and animals.

Social factors: The second point to remember is Indians are hypocrites’ par excellent. On one hand they boast that they are inheritors of a culture which says that gods reside in places where women are worshipped and on the other hand burn them for not bringing dowry. They don’t hesitate to kill even unborn babies in the womb if it happens to be a girl. In the name of tradition and family honour they marry their girls without taking their consent which amounts to forced rape. And if in case she marries against their wishes abandon and ostracize her. One of the most glaring discrimination against women which women themselves are probably unaware is the way they are addressed; it is always in singular. While a groom is addressed in plural, it is always singular for a bride even if she is highly educated and suitably employed.

Hence Indian women in their daily dealing with their male counterpart should always think him as a probable rapist. They should be on guard even while dressing. This may sound like moral policing but unlike in the western countries here men as mentioned above are slave to traditions. In western countries grownup men date with women and with mutual consent have sex and hence behave normally with women even if they wear fashionable dress. But in India the situation is different. Our boys have to marry the girl chosen by their parents whose selection of the bride is based on the assets which the girl’s family holds than on the liking of their son. Similarly on the girl’s side they want a boy who is materialistically well off. Hence Indian men have to suppress their sexual urge. To double their woes the advertising industry, media and Bollywood portray women as commodities and perverts the mentality of the already frustrated Indian male. If they see a woman in modern or fashionable attire they get perturbed, unable to control their repressed desire. So whenever they find an easy target they pounce upon like a beast.

Biological factors: Another fact which many are unaware is that sexual feelings of men towards women are biological and innate. Once adolescent set in, attraction towards the opposite sex take place both among boys and girls. Hence even prophets like Buddha considered women as the snare of the senses. When asked by his favourite disciple Ananda as to how we (monks) should behave before women, the Buddha replied that you should shun their gaze. Ananda then asked as to what to do if we see them. The Buddha advised them not to speak to them. But if we speak to them, then what asked Ananda for which Buddha replied that they should watch themselves. (H.V.Sreenivasa Murthy-History and Culture of India to 1000 A.D., S.Chand & Company Ltd., New Delhi, 1980, p.77). Similarly Prophet Mohammad with much insight and forethought insisted women to cover up from head to toe. Later the Muslim ulemas issued a new fatwa by which Muslim women were asked to veil even their face as in their opinion taking into consideration the moral degradation of the masses over the years, if Prophet Mohammad were to be alive today he would have ordered the same. History has several instances wherein even sages who had performed severe austerities failed to control their senses. For instance Sage Vishwamitra’s penance was broken by Menaka with whom the former married. It requires great guts for men to say that they have weakness for women. Hence women should be vary of those men who call themselves progressive, socialite, modern, liberated, etc., and criticize those who advise women to be on guard as orthodox and anti-women. These so called progressive are in fact are voyeurs. Sexual urge is such a thing that it leads even elderly men and those in top position go astray. The best example is that of the former IMF Chief Strauss Kahn who was accused by a hotel maid of sexual assault and also the case of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi having sex with an under aged prostitute. In our own country no one could believe that a former Chief Minister and Governor of a State like N.D.Tiwari would be caught pants-down.

But a question arises whether all men to be viewed suspiciously as sexual maniacs? The answer is no. For most men marriage acts as an outlet for their sexual urge. For many others the law acts as a restrain for resorting them to illegal gratification of senses. Then there is the moral factor which prevents men from being a slave of senses. But for some even if they are married, overtaken by beastly passions, even the threat of severe punishment does not deter them for carrying out ghastly acts which took place at Delhi.

The remedy: Women should accept certain realities. One is that they are life givers; they are the ones responsible for mankind to flourish. Sex is something in which force is inevitable and only god should be questioned as to why he initiated this type of act for human species to breed. Just like precious metals, diamonds, rubies and emeralds which have to be shielded to be protected, women being precious have to be safeguarded from preying eyes. When our government even after 65 years have not been able to provide basic human requirements like water, food and shelter, it will be naïve and foolish to expect them to provide security for women all the 24 hours. Hence one thing is certain for their safety Indian women cannot depend upon the government (which itself is a huge oppressive machinery), the police (who are the offenders in majority of rape cases in rural areas), the public (spineless and who as seen expressing their anger by burning tyres or destroying public buses) or even their male escorts, be it father, brother, husband or friend. So what is the remedy? Indian women should demand that the government permit every citizen of this country without criminal record to possess firearms for personal security without the need of obtaining license. Once this happens, industries to manufacture firearms like pistols, revolvers and rifles will be set up and considering the need to supply firearms to such a huge population these industries will give employment to lakhs of people. Due to mass production the prices of these firearms will also come down, just like the prices of mobile phone. A number of schools to teach how to handle firearms will come up providing employment to retired police and army personnel. There will be also employment in the form of shops selling these firearms. Economy apart this policy of permitting common citizens to possess firearms will have a huge impact on our society as it will spur up the self-esteem and self-confidence of the masses who till now are docile, submissive, fearful and lacking self-respect.

Even learning Karate, Judo or Kung-Fu will not benefit women as only in films can one person fight against many whereas in real life even men cannot fight if confronted with three or more persons, intoxicated and armed with sticks or rods and in the case if they possessing firearms he will be just a puppet. With firearms women can feel safe and with training will be always on alert while in public places. Firearms in the hands of a woman will act as a deterrent on sexual offenders. Even in the case of an attack by a mob similar to which took place in Guwahati, good Samaritans in possession of firearms could fire upon the mob from a safe distance and disperse them. Remember it was the invention of firearms which made the Europeans bold enough to undertake geographical discoveries and visit unfamiliar terrains.

Addressing the Constable needs

The vilest form of voluntary slavery exists in our country in the Armed and Police forces. The police constables and the army jawans who occupy the lowest rung of hierarchy are treated like dirt. They are addressed in singular without regards to their age or experience, verbally and sometimes physically abused, denied leave, made to work long hours without rest, humiliated and made to menial jobs and harassed by their immediate superior staff. In the name of discipline they are denied to form association and have no forum to express their grievances. All because of a regular pay many people join the army or police department and suffer a hell lot once struck in the system.

But there is limit to patience. When things go out of control the pent-up anger suppressed for years together lead to unsavory incidents like the recent killing of a police sub-inspector in Bangalore by his subordinate, a police constable for humiliating him in front of his family and denied leave to get himself treated for ailments.

The modern police and army in India as we know were the creation of the British who wanted mercenaries who for a dole or two would not hesitate to use force against their own brethren. The British rulers in India and their predecessor the East India Company had trained men in such a manner that they lacked sensitivity, feeling and emotions and like zombies carried out notorious acts upon the masses on the order of their superior English officers. Everyone blames General Dyer for the Jallianwallabagh massacre but it should be kept in mind that it was the Indian personnel who fired upon the fleeing unarmed Indians at Jallianwallabagh which led to scores of death. Even after the British left India in 1947 the Congress leaders instead of revamping the army and police force retained the same apparatus left by the British for their own selfish ends, i.e. to browbeat their political opponents. Hence both the armed and police force who were earlier saluting the British now started saluting the politicians and carrying out their orders just for the sake of a monthly pay cheque. Naturally this being the mentality of the men who serve in these departments they are looked upon with contempt. But now the time has changed. People who join the services as constables are educated and idealistic in their purpose. Their superiors should treat them with respect and develop a sense of comradeship with them for effective policing. Below are some of the suggestions which when carried out will end the ill repute of the police department in dealing with their personnel working at the lowest level.

  1. All officers to compulsory address constables in plural terms
  2. Khaki has now become synonymous with corruption and cruelty. To change this outlook among the people, the police constable’s uniform should be changed to grey/white colour terry cot safari suits. Instead of the heavy black shoes they be given sports shoes which will be comfortable in running and walking long distance.
  3. In view of the threat of terrorism and rowdy gangs using modern weapons all constables should be given a revolver/pistol and a walkie-talkie.
  4. Police constables should be given the power to levy fines for small offence like jumping of traffic signals, committing nuisance in public places, eve teasing, etc.
  5. Duty of sentries in police station to be abolished and instead closed circuit cameras and metal detectors should be installed in all police stations.
  6. Constables should be entitled for one day weekly off and one causal leave a month at any cost.
  7. Police constables should not be employed for carrying corpse, as guards in politician’s house and for menial work in the houses of I.P.S. officers (as orderlies).
  8. In each station for performance of duties about ten to fifteen constables should form a group with a head. The term of the head to be for six month and others in the group should be given that position in rotation. The head should be called head-constable and the sub-inspector should deal with the group through him. This method will bring a sense of comradeship between constables as all will have a chance to become the head and they would be able to solve personal or duty issues affecting them amicably.
  9. In view of the heavy stress and strain associated with the nature of police work their working hours to be limited to six hours. There should be four shifts of six hours each and the shift so allotted to constables should not be changed without their consent.
  10. The old archaic rule of constables standing in attention in front of their superior officers or saluting them should be abolished. So also the way in which the station officer allotting duties each day by calling attendance. This rule affects the self-esteem of constables who may be older and more experienced than the officer in charge.
  11. As a platform to express their grievances they should be allowed to form associations.
  12. Lastly they should be designated as Law Enforcer instead of police constable.

Simplifying Property tax Assessment

The BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the civic body of Bangalore) is probably working on the revision of property tax to be paid by property owners for the year 2013-14. The last revision had taken place five years back. At present the BBMP has a huge staff in the revenue department for assessing and collecting of property tax. As the tax to be paid is self-declared, random checks on properties have to be made. Besides, huge amount of money is spent on advertisement to create awareness among property owners, the need to pay their tax. The whole process of tax collection could be simplified if instead of built-up area, the BBMP takes the dimension of the site as criteria while fixing property tax. All property owners have documents mentioning the area of their sites which are foolproof. Once it is checked and the data stored, the BBMP could fix property tax uniformly on sites of the same dimension, the amount increasing corresponding to the size of the site. As it is the site value which is taken into consideration while purchasing a property, the present privilege of reducing certain percentage of property tax for old houses in the form of depreciation could be stopped. Once the property tax on the basis of the area of the site is fixed, this could be increased at a small rate of three to five percent once in three years or as per the rules of the municipal act. The payment of the property tax should be only through banks, via automatic money transfer. This step will lessen paper work and save property owners from filling forms every year standing in queues. The BBMP would also save manpower utilized for processing the forms, collecting cash and cheques, remitting it to banks, etc. Property taxes on flats and commercial premises have to be calculated on the basis of built-up area and the same may be continued, but the payment of tax should be through banks by means of automatic fund transfer facility.   

Some people may object the idea of fixing property tax on sites instead of built-up area as owners who have constructed two/three stories and have rented out will be paying the same property tax as paid by owners who have constructed small houses for self-residing. While this is true we should also take into consideration of the fact that by having more built-up area, the owner has given impetus to the economy by way of purchasing construction materials, providing wages and making houses available for people to reside. Moreover when a person owning either a two square built-up area on a 30X40 site or a four storied building (with marble flooring, Italian tiles and other modern fitting) on a 30X40 site decides to sell, the purchaser will pay the prevailing market value of the site and not on the built-up area. As site value especially in Bangalore (and also other cities) is appreciating, fixing property tax based on the dimension of the site would yield good income to local bodies.

At present property tax on rented houses is calculated along with the house in which the owners reside and collected once for all. If property tax is fixed uniformly based on the area of the site, the BBMP will find it difficult to assess houses provided for rent. The solution for this is to introduce a law by which payment of rents by tenants to the owners should be made compulsorily through Banks where a special rent account should be opened and a percentage of the rent credited to the BBMP.

The above step would be beneficial to BBMP in the long run as fixation of property tax would be simple and foolproof. Transfer through bank means nil collection charges and an assured income of a source of revenue. There will also be no need for the BBMP to calculate property tax on additional construction by house owners. Lastly this would result in zero corruption in the revenue department of the BBMP.

Cauvery dispute, a pestering wound

I always use to wonder what would have been the reaction of Karnataka government to release water from KRS to the downstream Cauvery region if the territory now in Tamilnadu had been a part of Karnataka. Is the issue so complicated that it is being dragged for decades creating animosity among the people of Karnataka and Tamilnadu? Year after year this issue crops up with tempers flared on both sides causing disruption to normal course of people’s life with rasta roko, bundhs and damage to public property. The governments of Karnataka and Tamilnadu which spends crores of rupees to provide fees to legal luminaries to speak forcefully on the state’s behalf could have spent a fraction of that amount to hire experts for advice on how to manage water resources. Our country boasts of natural resources in abundance including regular rainfall. But we have mismanaged and exploiting nature for our insatiable greed. Our politicians also want several contentious issues to be kept alive so as to divert people’s attention from their misrule. In West-Asia, Israel, Jordon, Lebanon and Syria share water from a single river like river Jordon where the average annual rainfall is one-fourth that which the Cauvery delta receives. Also due to high temperature nearly eighty percent of water flowing in Jordon River gets evaporated. Is it not shameful that two states in our country have not been able to resolve this issue of sharing water which speaks of the caliber of our leadership?

The real cause of water shortage lies in our lack of vision and corruption prevailing in our system. During monsoons after a few heavy showers we hear about major rivers in spate. But after a few months we hear of depletion of water levels in our dams. This is mainly because of the excessive silt which has been accumulated in our reservoirs. This not only reduces storage capacity and cause evaporation but also backwater flooding during heavy rains. The reason for not paying attention to remove silt is due to the fact that it is a labour intensive and officials and politicians get pitiable returns from contractors in the form of bribes for approving silting work. Hence whether required or not new construction projects are undertaken wherein the estimated cost of the project is raised several times the actual cost and the money distributed among the contractors, officials and politicians.

Today technology could be made use of for judicious use of water through sprinkler and drip irrigation, use of genetically modified seeds which use less water, change in cropping pattern, rejuvenating old tanks, increasing ground water level by erecting check dams and taking up afforestation along river sides and measure to prevent evaporation of stored water. More than anything we have to take steps to prevent wastage of water, that too drinking water. In Bangalore nearly fifty percent of water is wasted in the form of leakage during distribution and people using drinking water for non-domestic purpose like washing their vehicles, for gardening and washing their courtyards. The city needs water treatment plants where treated water could be supplied for non-domestic purposes.

Our politicians don’t have the maturity or competence to solve this problem. At the most they may resign from their seats (and submit their resignation letters to their party president and not the Speaker) so as to gain sympathy of the people to win in the next election. It is only issues like these which help them stay in limelight. In fact when the late Devaraj Urs government decided to take up the construction of Varuna canal to provide water from KRS to irrigate lands in Mysore district, there was protest by the farmers of Mandya who felt that its construction would affect their irrigational interest. Among the politicians who supported the Mandya ryots was a highly qualified young politician who now is a senior minister in the Central government. It is high time the Supreme Court put an end to this dispute by constituting a committee of technocrats, agricultural scientists, environmental engineers and those having expertise in irrigation for recommending measures as to how water from the river Cauvery could be utilized for the benefit of both the states. Let the Court also constitute an authority for implementing the recommendation of the experts committee.

The Divine Director

Ancient seers of India believed that God is the director of the play called Lila (creation), somewhat similar to the films/dramas directed by human beings. But unlike in a man-made film wherein its production involves the collective efforts of the producer, director, story writer, camera man, editor and others, in the creation play of God, He alone is the sole maker. While the duration of a man-made film is of two to three hours, the film directed by God may be of the duration between a few seconds to centuries. For instance soon after the birth of a character (soul) it may die or live up to decades like man, elephants, tortoise, tree, rocks, planets, stars, etc. While a human directed film has animate and mostly human characters and occasionally animals, the film called creation directed by God has both animate and inanimate characters and mostly non-human characters in abundance (microorganisms, insects, birds, reptiles, etc.) While a character may or may not accept the role given by a human director, one (soul) is forced to accept and play whatever role is given by the director called God. It may be a prince or a pauper, male or female, animal or insect. In God’s play only the human characters have been given the faculty of thinking. This faculty has provided him with alternate concepts like good-bad, right-wrong, pleasant-unpleasant, like-dislike, love-hate, etc., of which he prefers one to the other. This has resulted in humans to be always miserable as unlike in the film directed by the human director, where the characters can grow in status and may even overshadow the director, in the play directed by God, He alone and always predominates and his characters have no choice. While in a human directed play, characters have to act consciously, in a God directed play the characters act unconsciously. Once the character (soul) becomes conscious of itself, enlightenment happens.

Ithihas

Kaleidoscope of Indian civilization