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Thursday, September 24

Good things begin at home :)

The Govt of Kerala passed a bill the other day advocating severe measures against individuals and institutions found guilty of littering the environment. There are some pretty hefty fines, if you throw your bag of nappies, condoms and beer cans to the nearby municipal road, nearby canal or into the drain. Here is a snapshot of the article if you wanna enlighten yourself. Courtesy Keralakaumudi.

click for bigger fonts

Ok, appreciable move Gov! I'm waiting for the bill to become the law. And when it becomes the law, lest we not let this go the way of the numerous "laws" we have around us just for the namesake of it. Laws that are around just to encourage the public to break them...The Helmet and seat-belt rule, smoking in public places, ban on plastics to name a few.

Civic sense is not something which can be taught or practiced overnight. Kerala holds an august image as being one of the cleanest states in India, if not the cleanest. We take pride in our well maintained homes and apartments, our cities are still spotless (!) when in Indian perspective, we're given proper toilet training and not the field/railway track training, our city skylines are the prettiest in India and even the shanties we brand as slums are by far the best among the worst. Do you disagree?

Cochin Marine Drive skyline  Courtesy Niyasworld

The above image of the longest and prettiest skyline in Kerala, the Marine Drive waterfront in Cochin speaks about itself. Well maintained exteriors, no pillow covers, towels or undies hung up to dry in the balconies, and in fact most apartments and housing estates do have rules in place which helps to keep up the aesthetics of the complex.

Still, we're still stuck in the lower primary levels when it comes to acceptable standards of environmental hygiene & civic obedience. I learned a few lessons myself when I migrated outside the comfort zones of my country for the first time, the major crash course being on civic sense and law-abiding. I learned to use the litter bin for even the bubble gum, not to spit around as if the whole world is a wash-basin , to queue up to alight the public bus, to drive on the correct lane at the right speed,  to brake whenever I see the amber turn on instead of the age-old habit of accelerating harder...

Not that I'm whinging about our practices back in Kerala.. I still wear 'mundu' at home and not Bermuda, I'm still comfortable eating with my hand and  I still speak Malayalam and not the Ranjini Haridas 'maliyalum'.. Just in case some of you think, "oh, this guy is acting the 'sayippu' when he shook hands with a few white men..", its not that way! ;)

The curious thing is that it all came naturally to me because I was trained precisely so as a kid... I remember how my lower primary school teachers taught us to walk only on the footpath, to form the queue while getting into the school bus, not to spit on the road and sidewalks, proper disposal of the lunch-box remains, hand and body hygiene and what not? So where did I, as an individual, lose all those finer qualities? Now, I'm looking for someone to blame when mostly the fingers are all pointed towards myself.

To be honest, in India we practice bits and pieces. I've been reprimanded by a cop in Mangalore for crossing the road when the pedestrian signal was red, I patiently waited in the long queue to get into the BEST bus in Mumbai, I was part of the group which was fined in Mysore Zoo for plastic littering. All valuable education, but transgressed as soon as I landed back in aamchi Trivandrum! I've seen efforts by Bangalore Police to train drivers in lane driving in 2004 but the story was nonetheless the same when I went there last year. So the lesson to be learned is that we as human beings get naturally conditioned by the environment we live in. Simple as that.

Formulating the law is the easiest part, implementing it is the hardest. Kerala authorities learned it the hard way when the 100% sensible helmet rule was brought down to its knees and then driven to the gullies by the 100% literate Kerala society with the help of the demi-God media. It is anybody's guess where this new law will end up. It is unclear who is going to implement this law when the local self Govts apparently have enough on their plate now to look out for more garbage. The silver lining is that we already have the resources and help at hand to ascertain the abiding of this law, through Kudumbasree.

Kudumbashree is perhaps the illustrious example of how proper planning can bring about wonder changes to the society. In addition to the social empowerment and upliftment of women and initiating consistent  income to the weaker households, it has opened up a channel to solve our most discerning problem:  protecting our environment through solid waste management. (Please click the link to see how these women service our cities to keep them clean)

This is how this unique initiative by the State Poverty Eradication Mission may change the way Keralaites see their surroundings.

The Hindu, Sept 7, 2009

Once the Kudumbasree takes over the collection, each house will be given a report card for marking the nature of waste. Segregated and non-segregated waste disposals from the households will be marked in the card. Houses that do not give the waste to the waste handlers will also be identified. With the waste disposals of the households profiled, the ones that dump waste on the roads could be easily identified. The Kudumbasree units are being brought into the picture to ensure that waste is never dumped on the roads.A monthly fee of Rs. 50 each will be collected from each house.

So here is our model! Once the scope of their work is expanded from residential areas to managing the waste from commercial enterprises, a huge chunk of the litter menace in our ponds, canals and roads could be cordoned off. Ask the Corporation of Trivandrum who under-estimated the residents of their city. The Corporation barricaded the Amayizhanjan Canal with wire meshes to prevent dumping of waste into it. So what did the citizens do? They filled up the garbage in polythene bags and flung it over the 10-feet high wire barricade, right into the canal! Well, with Kudumbasree the authorities feel they could now shortlist such smart offenders.

And their modus operandi will solve another headache our agencies had w.r.t waste treatment: segregation of waste. This may open up avenues for the facilitation off recycling and reuse of materials, thereby taking a step closer to the Green initiatives which are gaining momentum.

I wish them good luck! And applause to whoever is behind the virgin initiative.

A much more proactive measure have to come from the local Govts in this matter.  Charging & fining the defaulting residents and establishments is a first step towards aligning the practices of residents towards decency, but it should be after the proper support measures are in place. It wouldn't be too impractical or difficult to put up litter bins on public places (like the one in the right pic) with the support of commercial establishments. With more Kudumbasree Units on the job, the processing and disposal of the waste won't be a big issue.

On the same lines, it would be prudent if the local authorities assume a firm stand against the defacing of our highways and cities by these banners, arches and ads. Sure they are avenues of revenue for the Panchayats & Municipalities but at what cost? Most of the time the political flags freely adorn the roundabouts, traffic islands and road dividers without any consent from any local body. A true eyesore in any sense for such a tourism-savvy place, but anyone bothered?

About lane driving and matters related to the road sense, its one tough job to crack the routine. The Highway Police did manage to make the motorists obey the "do not cross the yellow line" law sometime back by using the tough hands of the law, perhaps the next thing to do is to crack down on speeding.  Forcing lane driving could be a joke for the simple reason that there are no lanes markings on many of our roads.

So the simple fact is that as Keralites we are not so bad as the rest of our country, but we still have a  lot of scope for improvement. When our bad practices start draining our pockets we will be forced to put a chain to it. This is a lifestyle no one would be complaining about adopting from the West, or even the East. Guess why they say 'Singapore is a Fine City' , read this one from blogger Ajay Prasad and find out...

Speaking about hygiene and filth and citizens with civic sense, I learned that the West could be well as bad. Have a glance at the pix below; the one below is Downtown Los Angeles...

and these 'gentlemen'  are making themselves known in Melbourne, Australia. May be under the influence but still, I don't envy the behaviour or the surroundings, would you?


Saturday, September 19

Earthquake in Trivandrum, lonely man Twitter & more wtf

Consider this a compulsive sequel to the September 17 post on the Tharoor tweet controversy.

I hate to do this again, but the whole nation is on a debate left, right and center about a casual joke of Dr. Shashi Tharoor. I don't intend an autopsy on the ongoing fiddle-faddle but I can't help registering the utterly ridiculous deluge of gibberish from our self-proclaimed common-man's representatives.

Tharoor himself has acknowledged the political incorrectness of his pun and accepted the momentary lack of acumen to give his antagonists a potent weapon to hit him back. And he has said "sorry"!

But some people just don't want to let go.. Especially the ones who are green eyed at the high-speed elevator Dr. Tharoor took to reach the ranks, his closeness with the High-Command, his remarkable ability to hog the spotlight oh him and who're dazed by his flair, finesse and rising popularity among the country's youth.

So what do they do? Roll out a teething attack all in the name of a 71-word joke! Make no mistake here, its Congress leading the official attack on Tharoor, with BJP and the lefties yet to catch up.

First of all our Hindi media dudes committed the first purposeful misdeed of translating a perfectly tolerable  slang into Hindi, which immediately erased the humour element and turned it into blasphemy! Instantly lands Mrs. Jayanthi Natarajan, claiming to a Congress spokesperson, who clamours over the 'insensitive' nature of that tweet.

Congress elements are claiming that they are forced to speak out on this Twitter issue because the National Media has made a mountain out this mole. True in a sense; but how did the party handle this, especially at a crucial point when Assembly Elections are approaching? Every Tom, Dick and Harry has voiced their alarm at the insult delivered to common travelling public, and even  Kerala ex-CM Oomen Chandy voices his displeasure saying that  public figures should be compassionate. After Jayanthi Natarajan it was the turn of  Rajasthan CM and senior Congressman Ashok Gehlot to make matters worse by this public condemnation.

This, you must not forget, is when Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh has brushed aside this matter in the proper way, that this was a joke from Dr. Tharoor and nothing to ponder on.

Times of India columnist Mr. Jug Suraiya has depicted this in a facetious yet factual manner. Our traditional mail, the India Post is termed snail-mail. So can all the people who put a letter into our post-box called snails? And that the business class travellers are called "fat rats" as opposed to "cattle class", so now which one would you mind?

Shashi Tharoor has become the icon of hope for the citizens of Trivandrum as well as the whole nation. He has already acknowledged the situation and voiced that his priority would be the 400 million citizens of India living on just 1.25$ and less per day. In a short span of 3 months he has already started the ground work of strengthening the foundations for a sustained growth, viz the Rai Foundation scholarships for girls from lower economic strata and many more.

Sukumar Azhikode, an acclaimed critic and orator ridiculed the voters of Trivandrum as being "blind" and "foolish" for electing someone like Tharoor to New Delhi. In a stark paradox, IBN Live found out that the blind and foolish Trivandrumites could actually see the lighter side of the tweet which all the politicians failed to note.  Perhaps the 3.4 magnitude earthquake which struck the city yesterday evening could help shake off some clog from the brains of these holier than thou souls craving for Tharoor's blood.

Now, take this Mr. Azhikode!

Trivandrum says LOL

Click here if the video-link on top is not working.

A massive boo-hoo arrived from another Congressman and Waynad  MP Mr. M.A. Shanavas who openly remarked on IndiaVision that Twitter, Email and all are Western concepts and we as Indians should discard them!! No comments on that, but it received more than enough clatter from Congress MP Mr. Sudhakaran, interestingly another rare politician who tweets regularly.

The best joke of all came from Mr. Tom Vadakkan, so-called AICC Media Secreatry . And by god, just listen to the great invention he has made about Twitter. He apparently did a research about Twitter when Times Now contacted him and this is what he 'found out' about the micro-blogging site. Hold on to your knickers pals... This one takes the cake!

Did you notice the shock that blogger Amit Varma (the guy in glasses beside Tom uncle) got listening live to  the 'lonely man' stuff? Oh, its priceless! Watch 00:14 in the video..

Click for Full video of Times Now interview. Watch it, its worth it!

I did a bit of research myself about Mr. Vadkkan's interpretation of Twitter and its relation with loneliness, and sorry mates; I've come out blank. Perhaps this is the most plausible explanation I could think of:  Twitter is meant for people who are very lonely and depressed and who doesn't have anything worthy to do. And according to Tom Vadakkan they need psychological counselling. Did you hear that Jack Dorsey?

Now isn't this an instance you truly want to scream STFU!! ?

Tailpiece: Think about it, this guy Vadakkan was under serious consideration as a contestant  from Trichur for the recent Lok Sabha elections! Breathe a sigh of relief my old Trichur folks, that you're saved from colossal embarrassment of calling this dude your MP. God bless Trichur!

Thursday, September 17

Between cattle and the holy cows

Oh no, my favourite politician has found himself in hot waters again!

Shashi Tharoor is turning out to be the darling of Indian press. Be cautious! When you become the toast of the media you naturally find yourself staring at a big ugly canon because our mediafolks have never a good word to say about anybody or anything, unless you are a bollywood superstar. And the Trivandrum MP has had a fairly rough induction into his new career as an Indian Parliamentarian, pretty rough.

Dr.Tharoor's trackrecord in India exhibits one clear prominent feature. His ability to rake up controversies. It started the very day his name was announced as the contestant to New Delhi from Trivandrum. From the burning of his effigy by his own partymates to the National anthem controversy, he emerged all flags flying, amidst personal attacks pertaining to his American Connection, Israel soft-corner, literary works, Canadian wife and affluent lifestyle, one accusation outdoing the next in absurdity and stupidity.

His life as an MP and Minister kick started with questions raised about his  'strange'  hobby of Tweeting. This came from people who didn't know if Twitter was an animal or a bird. Tharoor's clarification was nodded to by everybody. The mooncalf journo who tried acting the smartass had his ass kicked and the matter was laid to rest. Then came the tiff with the losers at Trivandrum DCC and also a poke- poke back with the NSS. Nevertheless Tharoor won Round One 21-0.

The recent Five Star Hotel issue (or rather should I call it the non-issue?) brought the man again back in frame. It all began with a laughable Austerity Drive by the Congress head honchos by gimmicks like travelling in the Economy Class on flights, cutting down needless expenditures and so on. Laughable, because crores are spent on managing these palatial ministerial bunglows at the taxpayer's expense and Highway Minister Kamal Nath was on a glob-trot for no reason with accomodation in Five-Diamond rated Hotels..I don't know on whose bright head this austerity bulb flashed first but I can tell you where this is headed. Are all our politicians going to travel in the Economy Class forever? Haaaaaah, I'd bet my house on them moving on to the posh upper zones in a hurry, by citing security reasons and whatever crap they could think of. But Tharoor lost a few personal points in this political ploy when he was asked to vacate the Hotel suite where he was staying by paying from his own pocket!

The waves of this Hotel nonsense were just retaliating when the next one has crashed down on all of us, this time with the effect of a Tsunami! And this one seems bad enough, with Tharoor's trendy aide, Twitter, letting him down this time.

It all started when Tharror responded to a friendly light-sided tweet from Mr.Kanchan Gupta, Associate Editor of the Pioneer. His tweet was as follows: (Sept 14, 11:27am)

@ShashiTharoor Tell us Minister, next time you travel to Kerala, will it be cattle class?

Tharoor, as whimsical as he is responded in a so-so manner.

@ Kanchan Gupta, absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!

And Kanchan Gupta followed it up with the safe-journey wish. (note the emoction) (Sept 15, 10:11pm)

@ Shashi Tharoor, Have a nice journey. And since there is no austerity out there, have fun.. :)

Now, I first heard about this issue when a friend of mine pinged me about this in Gtalk. He asked me if I had heard what Dr. Tharoor had just said. On briefing me, I just asked "What! Did he really say something like that!?"  My initial stress was on the 'holy cow' part of it becuase it, in all probability, was meant to aim the Congress think tanks and it wouldn't be digested well.

The indigestion would be for a few good reasons. First it would be interpreted as a poke at the "Austerity campaign" undertaken by his party bosses. Secondly the humour element in a harmless off-topic conversation between two individuals would be dissociated when the Press and public interpret his words. Lastly and most obviously,  English is not the first, or even the second language of a mammoth chunk of our countrymen and Tharoor's colloquial Oxford English usage won't be taken in the exact sense a Scottish teenager would've seen it.

That's exactly what happened here. Lost in translation, lost in context...

In all fairness to Tharoor, Cattle Class is an accepted and widely frequented synonym for Economy Class travel. Tharoor used it as a run-of-the-mill response, remember, but this is where the words and phrases find new and out of context meanings when in translation.

Remind you of something? The now infamous 'dog remarks'  by Kerala CM Comrade Achutanandan. Same settings, same ploy, same error.. Now if Achumama was wrong there, Tharoor is wrong here. You take out the 'if' from the previous sentence, it still holds its fact, sadly.

What I understand from this is that you needn't be wrong to be deemed wrong. The omnipresent television folks are ready to spring upon anything, and under the present Indian circumstances the media verdict is kinda interpreted as the people's opinion. Doesn't matter if you're right or wrong, what the media vomits and excretes are sacred offerings... Our billion-strong population can very well be taken for a ride, like the ongoing China-India war! I don't know whats going on there, do you?

A high profile personality like Shashi Tharoor is always under the microscope. It is news if he says something, its news even if he doesn't say anything. So when he rather speak, he may well weigh his words before letting it out. His tweets are for me, you and the whole world to see. So as a man of high honour it may well be prudent if Dr. Tharoor pays a little more attention to his words and deeds. Sadly, humour sense and common sense is not something very common in our set-up, as he has learned the hard way.

I hope senses prevail among the leaders and Tharoor not be reprimanded for being witty. He is a league ahead of some of the mainstream leaders we got up there and perhaps that's his main fault: being ahead of the curve.  And as for Dr. Tharoor, he may better learn this lesson well, and quick!

Update 18/09/2009 0330 hrs IST
What began in Twitter hopefully will end in Twitter. Shashi Tharoor has expressed his regret and apologies for the inattentive(!) and insensitive(?) use of jargons. From Twitter:

learned belatedly of fuss over my tweet replying to journo's query whether i wld travel to Kerala in "cattle class". His phrase which i rptd

it's a silly expression but means no disrespect to economy travellers, only to airlines for herding us in like cattle. Many have misunderstd

i'm told it sounds worse in Malayalam, esp out of context. To those hurt by the belief that my repeating the phrase showed contempt: sorry

i now realize i shldnt assume people will appreciate humour. &u shouldn't give those who wld wilfully distort yr words an opportnty to do so

And as an explanation to his "holy cow"  usage, Tharoor replies to the querry of a fellow tweeter.

@dilnawazpasha holy cows are NOT individuals but sacrosanct issues or principles that no one dares challenge. Wish critics wld look it up

So Dr. Tharoor, hope the ones crying for your blood will be satiated by this. And appreciate the courage shown to accept the tactical or political error you've commited. You said it, ours is not a funny country and we have to live with it.

Suggested reads on the same issue.

Its a joke, you stupid cretins!
Congress's sense of humour is pathetic
Austerity 09: Random thoughts
A Cattle-class country?

Saturday, September 12

Angels or Demons?

There is a group of people in Kerala who are on a direct competition with the attimari labourers, govt employees and private bus owners to break the record for the maximum number of strikes conducted in one calender year: the doctors!

There is another strike going on in the Medical College in Trivandrum, the umpteenth one this year, this time the reason being the Govt decision to ban private practice. All the departments are under freeze, and the patients left at the mercy of the bystanders and the nurses, but who cares?

Doctors belong to the upper strata of the society. They, being the watchdog of life, are given utmost respect, enjoy crémé social status and privileges. They are semi-Gods earning probably a fortune, especially the senior docs who earn 7-digit quids through salaries, perks, private practice and commission from prescriptions and scans.Yet some are not satisfied.

Having a flashback at the recent events with the doctors in spotlight (for the wrong reasons) exhibits the alarming consistency at which our medics abuse the respect and status showered upon them. Leave aside the ubiquitous lightening strikes, there have been rather unfortunate happenings like a senior doctor walking out from accompanying the President, the needless, silly and ridiculous tiff with the nursing staff in the Medical College (which saw them stooping to new low with distribution of propaganda leaflets to patients and relatives!! ). Have the docs of Kerala lost their self-respect?

Make no mistake about it, the life of a doc, especially early on in their career, is no rose-bed. They are given the most rigorous training in the four-and-a-half years and then starts the real torture. A medical college like Trivandrum, which has 1500 beds and 4000 patients are literally run by house-surgeons and post-graduate students. The interns do the dog-work for a paltry 4-digit stipend, sometimes 24 hours on the trot. A medical/surgical ward which accommodates 65 beds and has 165 patients at a time, is run by a couple of house-surgeons, 1 post-graduate student, and a couple of nurses. During night shift, this figure halves!! Many a times, the lives of these 165 patients rest in the hands of the lone nurse. Worse, there is no specific definition about the scope of work for each health care professional.

Don't ask what will happen if two or three patients, God forbid, get heart attacks simultaneously..

Read it together with the pressure of their studies and career, discontented and mostly-ignorant (pardon that word) patients and relatives, chronic lack of adequate medications, equipment and support, there are some very good reasons for them getting frustrated.

Medical College Trivandrum Entrance

Saying that, that is no reason for the men-of-honour to abuse their power and show off their union strength leaving the patients at God's mercy. The Govt spends over 20Lakhs of tax-payers' money to educate a single doctor from our Medical Colleges, and the docs have some serious social commitment. It seems they need to be reminded about this one fact they seem to forget.

Doctors in Kerala refuse to go out to see their patients at home, and the system and work-culture turning them even more arrogant. Ethics is not a word that many of our holy-men would like to hear. ESMA and laws like that are jokes for them because they, like any other common Kerala labourer, understand the power of labour union. How on earth could someone in this profession behave like a common coolie worker, after-all education is a virtue which brings about change in behaviour. There was even an incident a few years back where a group of  resident doctors beat up an acutely ill patient on a hospital bed! Unimaginable! That was the lowest I thought, but no..

It's becoming increasingly clear that there is a use of muscle power to get things in their favour. Part of the blame lies with the Govt which keeps our hospitals function at the most basic levels. In the event of a mass casualty the health care workers are under enormous pressure and this often breaks out as face offs with the patients and the accompanists. There have been numerous instances where physical attacks have been carried out against the doctors and this in turn resulting in a lightening strike.

The Govt in turn has chosen to keep mum on the issue instead of promptly dealing with it in a cause-factor method. Promises are made, the Police will charge a few and the issue is covered in tissue paper. It happens again, eventually. Control of relatives in our hospital settings is one major step, especially in the casualties. Hospitals must formulate a policy of zero tolerance to those who abuse their staff and should show the public that deterrents will be prosecuted. Beef up security and control in our hospital settings, for the total protection of the staff, the patients and their relatives. So that's a firm hand on one horn of the bull.

Developing our hospital infra is no easy job. Health sector is one area where Kerala is far too ahead of their counterparts in India, but we're still caught wanting at needy times. Whatever money is pumped into the system doesn't show up anywhere. CT Scanners and associated equipments bought for the Govt. Hospitals break down 'mysteriously' the next day, or surely within a week. Lack of life-saving medications and the pressure for private purchase leads to the displaced anger of the relatives towards the doctors and other health staff. So again, who is the primary culprit here? 

Professionalism is another word our Public Health System could add to its dictionary. On top of the thousand-odd students and thousands of patients, the senior doctors are burdened with the additional responsibility of administration, which drains off their mental energy completely. Its about time there is a serious revamp to our administrative set up, and the doctors allowed to do what they're supposed to do. Those MBA and MHA graduates are smart blokes on the frame, believe me!

Our social structure and environment has surely structured the way the doctors view the world outside their glasshouse. The huge difference in the work-culture and practice in a Medical College or a Private Hospital from that seen in the autonomous institution of Sree Chthra Thirunal Institute of Medical Science and Technology must be a leaf we could borrow. SCTIMST and the Regional Cancer Center host an exemplary structure, starting from a Medical Social Worker and rising to the panel doctors to review their patients. The security and safety are admirable, the hospital is clean, neat and healthy, the staff paid good salaries (unlike in the Private Hospitals) and the working environment is far better, though I'm not claiming it to be a heaven ;). But a far cry from our local set up where there is just one boss dictating terms.

Sree Chitra Institute in Trivandrum pic courtesy Satyalal
Though our Private Hospitals are good at cleanliness and support structures, there is much to be desired by the way it handles the staff. Apart from the senior doctors, the other health care professionals including the junior doctors, staff nurses and the paramedical staff are paid paltry amounts which is in gross violation with the minimum pay laws in place. Its not a secret that people work full-time for even Rs. 500/month, and how would you expect these ground-level workers not to be professionally dissatisfied, frustrated and act out? The laws in place are mere scarecrows and there is a serious lack of regulations.

Is this what we call a healthy working environment? NO, any place where the abuse of staff occurs is never a healthy work environment. You're sure to see trouble and a degradation in the quality of work.

Lack of team work is another worrying phenomenon which plagues our health system. There are far too many levels, mirroring our social strata. The doctors are in one cozy level and then comes the ground level employees. The Nurses, for the amount of selfless toil they do are always at the receiving end of the stick from all parts of their spectrum. Long shifts, unsocial working hours, short breaks, lack of holidays, miserly pay packages, unruly working environment...tell me why any educated soul should tolerate this? It is a thankless job being a nurse in Kerala, ask me, and no wonder the new graduates from our state want to run away to the West where they get respect, honour and a lifestyle which is a class apart. Same tale goes with the professionals in the Pharmacy and other Paramedical professions, but one good thing is that they're not directly involved in patient care.

Lack of flexibility and accountability adds to the deterioration of our health system.The status-quo has remained because of the rigid attitudes of the groups with vested interests. Negative media scrutiny and bad press doesn't help as well.

The Govt must make up their mind to use the iron handle in dealing with such illicit and unethical union activities at the expense of the safety of the patients. About time the medics have a serious retrospection on their tactics to bring things under their control through such unfair means.

So all's not rosy in our health sector as it may appear from outside. The treatment must begin from the highest level, and with all due respect to the doctors of our state, there must be a change the way some of you do things. After-all this is not a job every Tom, Dick and Harry could do, and when it comes to people of the highest caliber like thee, we mortals expect a bit more compassion.

Compassion?  Did I say something obscene? :P

Wednesday, September 9

Foulplay: PART II - The National Games saga

Continued from PART I

If ever there was a doubt regarding how seriously our country and state consider our sports arena then the handling of the National Games, arguably the most important & the most erratic sports event in our country, is a classic example.

Setting the drama open, the crack began when Kerala was 'awarded' the privilege to host the biennial (?) event in 2010. The jubilant Minister for Sports Mr. Vijayakumar went straight on record stating that we're going to conduct the best ever version of the Games and that Trivandrum would be the venue. Then he told that as much as 1000 crores would be spent on developing infrastructure in the city and suburbs, including a Games Village. Outlandish ideas of constructing a Beijing model birds-nest stadium, constructing a few greenfield indoor stadia, swimming pools and revamping a few other sports facilities in the city and what not!
Screenshot of initial dreamworks Courtesy Keralakaumudi
Then someone had the bright idea of using the Central Govt fund to develop sports infra all around the state. So from one city- one district affair, the National Games 2010 was ballooned into an all-Kerala festival, meaning the event will be held in all the 14 districts of the state spanning 38,000+ sq kilometers!!

Thankfully, after a while some senses prevailed and it was decided to shortlist 7 districts for the Games, from Trivandrum to Calicut, amidst cries of neglect and cruelty from the remaining 'lucky' districts. Lucky in the sense, these places lost the chance to see wild rosy dreams of lavish stadia popping up in every nook and corner of their districts. Because as of now, 1 year after the official announcement there is only one thing certain about the event:

National Games 2010 WILL NOT happen in 2010 anyway near the way it was promised, if lucky in 2011 or 2012...or...

Note: The National Games scheduled in Ranchi in 2008 has not happened yet. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Ok so, what about our Birds nest stadium minister? The one you promised to build in Karyavattom (or was it Vattiyoorkavu?) with a 50,000-soul capacity... And we were promised a greenfield Indoor Stadium, Swimming Pool renovation and so on, apart from a Hockey Stadium in Kollam, Velodrome in Calicut, Indoor Stadium in Cochin. Anything happening?

No is the answer, if what he said a few days back is to be believed. Quote:

Kerala Government is moving ahead with the preparations for conducting the 35th National Games allotted to the state as per schedule in May, 2010.

'Kerala has no anxiety.We are going ahead with our preparations for the conduct of the game as scheduled', Kerala Minister for Law and Sports M Vijayakumar said.

On the delay in completion of infrastructure facilities, he said the renovation of the existing stadiums will take only six months and it is not a problem.

Samaylive, 21 August 2010

What does that mean? There wont be any bird's nest, no velodrome, no games village, no nothing... The Govt is hell bent on conducting the event in 2010 May itself when they can't even clean up the University Stadium  before that. A second opportunity to conduct such an event will come after the Halley's Comet is halfway into its flightpath and is this wise to waste this chance?

The system is to be blamed here. Shortlisting the venue just 15-18 months before an event demanding massive infrastructural and logistical works is the first Himalayan blunder; courtesy the IOA blockheads...With the 34th Games in Ranchi scheduled this year end, the next version within a time-span of 5 months was the next big joke. And the State Govt completed the circle of bloopers by falling flat on its face after the overdecorated announcements and promises during the initial euphoria.

Even though Jharkhand defaulted in their arrangements for the National Games, the state made use of the generous funds made available by GoI to facilitate the construction of a mega-sports complex in 325 acres just outside Ranchi city, which would contain venues for almost all the events viz Athletics, Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Gymnastics, Kabbadi, Kho-Kho, Swimming, Shooting, Cycling, Tennis to name a few. Jharkhand is also developing a state of the art Games Village through a public private partnership model just adjacent to the Mega Sports Complex.

The Khelgaon or the National Games Housing Complex is also getting ready to house the 6000+ participants and officials. And Kerala has decided to utilize the unoccupied ghostly flat complex of Housing Board in Balaramapuram!

Ranchi mega sports complex masterplan

The website set up for the 35th National Games in Kerala lists out the venues for the showcase event. Its miserable! Here it is...  As per the current plan the University Stadium is going to be the main venue, lol, it will take some work by the snake charmers to drive the reptiles and mongoose away from the gallery, fill up the rat-holes and cut the man-high grass in the south field. The only positive I see from that list is the Pirappincode Aquatic Complex will be realized, or will it be another Bird's Nest-in-the-air?

The political and bureaucratic climate is all positive for Kerala to muscle in some much needed facelift for our Sports facilities. With an all-powerful group of ministers at the center and influential members in Executive its a once in a lifetime chance to pull in some noteworthy investments to construct International standard sports facilities. It would be atrocious for the Govt to settle down for a mediocre event conducted on existing rusty crumbling facilities. Just 110 crores have been allocated to Kerala for the mega-event and much of this is planned to be spent on tunneling out an underground parking lot for Central Stadium. Its time we stood up and shout "NO", because Kerala has been second to none in producing talents who have upheld our country's image on the World stage.

The eagerness on the part of our Sports Minister for the May 2010 date is not to be misinterpreted. It has nothing to do with the development of the state's sports. The next Kerala Assembly elections is due in 2011 and M.Vijayakumar (pic) wants to satisfy his party head-honchos by conducting the games before 2011, just to score a few useless points to present before the electorates. Analyzing the present performance of Mr. Vijayakumar and his bunch of commies led by Comrade Achuthanandan, it is most likely that the whole lot will end up where they belong: the opposition benches.

So honourable Minister, please don't rob us off the promised developments which the Center has proposed. Please don't succumb to a less-than-ordinary event in our old dilapidated dustbowls. We know that Kerala Govt has "aanamutta" in hand to build new stadiums and you are going to commit a crime against the sports lovers of the state by going ahead with your political game-play.

Is there nothing to it more than politics? Or is it all part of the big-game?

Saturday, September 5

Foulplay: PART I - Playing the spoilsport

This post was just meant to analyze Kerala's preparation for the proposed National Games 2010, but it got too lengthy that I had to break it up into two. This Part would be an addendum to an earlier post in this blog; Ready, Steady, Gold! (August 2008)

How do you think we could assess the general talent and ability of the citizens of a country or a state?

By the number of professionally qualified people the country churns out? Or by counting the Nobel Prize winners? Or perhaps the literacy rate? Or rather the no of Gold medals the country procured in the previous Olympics???

I'd be genuinely be irked if someone has a compelling argument in favour of the last one, the Olympics one. One of my friends joked about the reason behind the pathetic display of our country on World stage (except Cricket) that the gross talent is equally distributed among all 1 billion people, so the per capita talent comes out a disaster. Good for a laugh if we are all in a balloon suspended above Wonderland.

To be honest, how successful a sportsperson you turn out boils down to how much support you receive from your immediate physical environment. In simple words, how well you're groomed. You may have awesome talent, tons of motivation and thrust but in the modern world you're still a handicap if you're not supported by professional coaching facilities & infrastructure, early & consistent opportunities at higher levels & vigorous training, to mature from a good player to a world-beater. And this is where the sportspersons in our country lose out. Its more a matter of money, as in any other field. Unfair, but the truth...

Saying that, we do see talents like Haile Gebrselassie  sprouting from Ethiopia and the likes, but those are far in between. As for India is concerned there is no comfort of such a trump-card what-so-ever. Money is pumped into cricket and the results are for everyone to see. On the other side even our national sport Hockey is dying a slow painful death..We just witnessed an Olympics sans India, for the first time in history.

The treatment meted out to Sports people in our country and state is best described as cruel. Once upon a time Kerala enjoyed the kingpin status for producing raw talents in sports arena of the country. Kerala delivered the likes of PT Usha, Shiny Wilson, Anju George who brought much name and fame for the nation. The erstwhile football team of Kerala Police set the turf on fire with agile and charismatic charmers like Satyan, Pappachan and IM Vijayan. We had back-up talents from teams like Titanium, SBT & co and those were the golden days of Kerala football. Not to mention the consistent performances in Santhosh Trophy when Kerala was a force to reckon with. Well, not anymore...not anymore.

The last tragedy story was that of FC Cochin, the first professional football club in the country, which failed to live up to the hype it created. We also have a Viva Kerala now, but no one knows where it's headed as well.

Its painful to see how those illustrious footballers have fared off the field. There is no soul in the state who are not aware about how those footballers were treated by our Govt. The tale of former Indian captain V.P. Sathyan is a testimony. I.M.Vijayan lived in his modest home for years and he flourished only after leaving the state for Mohun Bagan. All Vijayan received from our leaders was promises, promises and more promises, all emptier than Kerala Govt treasury.

This is the case with many exciting kids seen during the annual School Games. Even though this is a well conducted event, the raw talents unearthed during the meet slowly fades away into oblivion for want of professional & international standard coaching and training facilities. Not to mention the bleak financial future awaiting them if they chose to be an athlete.

The Govt has send out the message loud and clear: Become a professional sportsman at your own risk!

What we've been giving our sportsmen were all bricks and boots. The GV Raja Sports School in Trivandrum is an open book for the neglect meted out to the aspiring kids who chose to take up Sports as a livelihood just for the love of it. It hurts to see the torture meted out to them. The shani-dasa of the school started when it had to be relocated to aid in the expansion of the Indian Air Force in Shankhumugham. The School has no proper jumping pit or track, no standard training facilities, hasn't even a decent toilet.

The major problem faced by the Govt is that there have been null returns from the Sports arena of the state. There is practically no corporate presence or sponsorship on Kerala sports scene. This means the Govt receives almost nothing from the field to give back. As a result our already beggar state exchequer has nothing to offer other than void promises. Even mowing the grass in the stadia turn out a big burden for the local authorities. Eventually the cradle for future sports-champions becomes arena for everything else other than sports.

This is not the situation exclusive to Kerala but pan-India. Except for cricket and a few professional clubs in West Bengal, the business-houses and media couldn't be seen anywhere. Compare this with the UK, where the Govt received over 4 billion pounds from the Sprots field through taxes alone and spent back 885 million pounds (over 7000 crore INR)to develop sports infrastructure. Perhaps the reason why our old Colonizers are a prominent force on every major sports events under the Sun.

The existing sports infrastructure in the state will hurt many sports lovers. The only International Stadium in the state, the Kaloor one, hosts a Cricket match once every 2-3 years, and is regularly used for Expos. The Corporation Stadium in Calicut has just been opened after years and years of renovation. The Chandasekharan Nair stadium in the capital has turned into an open air theater for reality shows, award nights, dog shows, cotton & towel expos and as a jogging track for pot-bellied police officers. Last time I saw the University stadium it looked a bit better than the sewage farm in Muttathara, with all that tall brown grass blades. The Aquatic Complex in Pirappincode is a pain to look at, unfinished ghost-structure for the past decade. All the existing sports infra in Kerala are synonymous with neglect, misuse and indifference.
Chandrasekharan Nair stadium getting ready for some award night. pic courtesy Satyalal

The functioning of LNCPE in Trivandrum or SAI in Kollam hasn't done much good to the state or the country either other than providing employment to a few hundreds of sarkari naukar. That seems to be the whole idea of sports administration in our state and country: plagiarism, favouritism, skulduggery, backstabbing, mediocrity and what not!

The products from these sports schools find solace in acquiring Govt jobs in Railways, Services, Air India et al, and slowly the 'sports' career takes the backseat.

Recently there was a news that some renowned film stars are mulling over the idea of an IPL Team from Kerala. There are thoughts about building a greenfield stadium exclusively for the team either in Kovalam or Cochin. And now I hear the bollywood bad-boy Salman Khan is also interested in the Kerala team! Gracious.. As much as 250 crores are to be spent on the new stadium alone! Along with this the Kerala Cricket Association is constructing their own International Stadium in Cochin at the cost of some hundred crore quids. All for cricket, because that's where the money flows to.

But this could in turn lead to spill-over benefits for the community as a whole as we see in the English Premiership. Clubs like Manchestor United or Liverpool, apart from being superbrands of their own cities, invest significantly in unearthing and grooming budding talents in their locality. They build and operate sports infra not just for football but for a variety of other sports too. Just like BCCI has grown from a local Cricket board to sponsoring and financially supporting sports other than cricket.

For this one reason, I support the Kerala IPL Team and hope they grow big over time and be a torchbearer for the overall development of the state. Well, may be a cranky dream but this is the only successful example I've seen.

Also its about time that we reassess way we play the spoil-sport w.r.t management. Bring in interested and associated people at the administrative helm (meaning, throw out the parasitic politicos from the chief positions), draft a sports policy with the help of people who know the field, invest more in the sports facilities, show the exit sign for the footlickers and freeloaders and provide subsidy or some kind of attractions to mull in sponsors. Developing the interest of local community in sports is crucial for uplifting the spirits of any sportsperson. We need the resuscitation of local clubs like Titanium or FACT to kick off the CPR process.

It is also crucial that we take the National Sports and Games events a lot more seriously. The way our states deal with the National Games, perhaps the most important and the most erratic sports event in India is for everyone to see. The National Games 2008 in Ranchi is yet to happen!! And what hopes have we, when sports loving states like Kerala waste a golden chance to improve their sports facilities, after given the responsibility to conduct the event?

More about the ongoing National Games 2010 drama here in PART II... publishing in 4 days time, flat.