Thursday, May 31, 2007

Empowering the un empowered – a different paradigm

The divisive debate rages on at the national capital Delhi and various state capital on ‘Reservation’ as a tool for bringing social equity. In this backdrop, the efforts of the coaching institutes at Patna to empower the poorest of the poor is worthy of note and of emulation. Their objective is to prepare the students from the most underprivileged classes to sit for the competitive IIT entrance examination. Many of these students are first generation literates. Most have not even heard of IITs till they are picked by these institutes. One candidate is the son of a security guard. Another is the son of a nurse at a private hospital. A third is the daughter of a road roller driver. Yet another is the child of an unemployed father.A very large number of them are from the so called backward castes, but their success is not under reserved quota but general category.

Mr Anand Kumar, a Mathematics genius and Mr Abhyanand, Addnl DG, Bihar police, started an institution called Super 30 some four years back. They selected 30 bright students from the poorest of the poor and gave them intense coaching to compete in the prestigious IIT Joint Entrance Examination. Over the last four years, their success has increaed from 14 out of 30 to all 30 making it to the IITs this year. Abhyanand, in spite of his very demanding police job, finds time to teach Physics to these students.

The even better news is that the model has been replicated by others as well. Genius 40 picks up 40 students from the underprivileged background and provides them not only tution but also food and lodging so that they concentrate on the task of preparing for the competitive examination than worry about their next meal. Another similar initiative is I Desire which has been set up by former IIT graduates in the memory of Satyendra Dubey. Dubey, an IITian from Bihar was murdered in 2003 by the mafia due to indiscrete information leak from the Prime Minister’s Office while fighting corruption at the National Highway Authority of India.

Unlike the commercial coaching centres with their slick air conditioned class rooms, these coaching centres have the bare necessities such as the black board, the roof above and functional seats for the students. Books are re used. These private initiatives have ascertained what are the essentails and just focus on those, leaving the non-essentials for their more privileged counterparts.

It is pertinent to note that while the reserved seats are getting cornered by the well off Meenas and other creamy layer, this private initiative strikes at the root of the problem and brings empowering education to the really needy. The fundamental question, how will reservation help if the candidates for whom it has been made are not even aware that such institutions of higher learning exist, remains the most fundamental and unanswered question.

Let me end with a quote from Mr. Abhayanand, one of the founders of Super 30: “For only when we can open up opportunities otherwise blocked for the underprivileged can we aspire for a just and equitable society.” This is indeed not an empty boast. Apart from the direct contribution of teaching 30 carefully selected students from the underprivileged sections of the society, they also ask for a guru dakshina from their students : “Give back to society what you have got, if not more. "

Saturday, May 12, 2007

How To Be a Programmer

These days I started to use a new tool which integrates well with my Mozilla Firefox brower. It is called Stumble Upon. This tool helps me looking for sites based on the interest (I need to define them first after I sign up with Stumble Upon). While browsing through programming Category yesterday I came across a very good site which says How to be a Programmer. Well it might sound like one of those cheap trick sites, but it is not. Its a lengthy article to read and takes about an hr to read and understand.

There are two major skills identified for the programmer (or developer)
  1. Personal Skill
  2. Team Skill
Each of them are then further divided into sub sections. While the first skill deals with what the person must have in terms of skills required like Technical, Aptitude etc. The second skill focuses more on what it takes to be part of the successful team ie correct estimation, managing self time etc.

In a nutshell its a good read for all those who aspire to build their career in Software Industry and want to grow. It is recommended to read for those who are in Software Industry as well. So that they can identify their gaps and make sincere effort to fill them.

Until Next Time..:)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Brand Bihar in action

There’s a steady but significance change in the investment pattern in Bihar. The state and its citizens have always been a subject of ridicule and apathy over the years for the tardy growth rate and dwindling investment over the years. The history of neglect and step motherly treatment by planning commission and financial institutions has seen the growth of the state plummeting over the years. Bihar’s annual growth rate was 5.2% compared to all-India’s 5.6 % in the 1980s, declined to 3.46% in contrast to the national growth rate of over 6% in the 1990s, and has recently increased. Central Statistical Organization (CSO) figures place its average growth rate from 1993-94 to 2003-04 at 5.8% per annum, just under India’s 5.9% per annum.Much has been said about the unfair treatment meted to Bihar but these figures do not present the real picture of the immense market potential and untapped resources of the state. However times are changing fast and more and more organizations are realizing the immense potential which Bihar has.

The recent meet of Industrialist in Bihar is one such significant step in the direction to change the investment climate in Bihar. In the recently held first-ever meeting of Bihar Development and Investment Promotion Council (BDIPC) meet at Patna it was decided that Chairman of Aditya Birla Group Kumarmangalam Birla will look after harnessing the private sector in Bihar, vice-chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra Anand Mahindra will be involved in harnessing agriculture. Similarly, Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel will extend his cooperation in mainstreaming the rural economy. A dozen sectoral groups to be known as 'Abiding Initiatives', each headed by a top CEO, have been formed to help formulate and fine-tune policies. The easing credit flow initiative will be headed by ICICI MD K V Kamath, while noted architect Hafeez Contractor will draw the blueprint for urban design.

Priya Paul, chairperson of Apeejay Surrendra Group, who showed keen interest in tourism development will head the group on tourism, travel and employment potential and RPG Enterprise V-C Sanjeev Goenka will oversee the energy concern. Chairman Max India Analjit Singh has been involved in new health paradigm. With a stress on popularising Brand Bihar, an initiative has been shaped for state's image building.

The think-tank unanimously resolved that there was a major improvement in the crime-control situation under the Nitish Kumar administration and this was a giant leap for putting the state on the threshold of development.

“The state requires a consistent 8.5 per cent growth rate and the key lies in developing basic infrastructure. Stress on education and leveraging the state’s travel and tourism advantage should form the key,” said ICICI Bank chief K.V. Kamath, whose organisation has been doing brisk business in the state.Mahindra and Mahindra Group head Anand Mahindra promised that actual announcement of projects would begin soon.

The govt. has been swift to react to the changing times and has amended the Bihar Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Act, 1981, in March-end which mean now sugarcane juice can be directly used for producing ethanol or rectified spirit and for cogeneration.Prakash Jha recently laid foundation of his sugar factory at Gurwalia in West Champaran district.he also announced his intentions of setting up 10 more sugar mills in the state.

In another development a World Bank aided project for boosting rural economy through self-employment will be launched in 4,000 villages spread across six districts of Bihar in September this year. The Rs 306.5 crore project, christened 'Jivika' (employment), will be executed under Bihar Rural Livelihood Project. According to a five-year action plan prepared for 'Jivika', the project will be implemented in 4,000 villages under 42 development blocks across Nalanda, Gaya, Khagaria, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani and Purnia districts. Altogether 5.9 lakh poor families would benefit from the project, the burden of which will be shared by the World Bank, Bihar government and the beneficiaries.

The revival of Bihar has also seen the revival of the Bhojpuri film Industry which is witnessing a phenomenal resurgence after a lean patch. With 76 films produced in 2006, Bhojpuri films have recorded the fastest growth rate — a 100 per cent increase over 2005. They also account for 7 per cent of the total number of films produced, only marginally behind Malayalam and Kannada films, according to figures released by the Central Board of Film Certification.

This summern and even Spiderman is going to make its debut in Bhojpuri version. But a Bhojpuri Spiderman doesn't come cheap. A whopping Rs 3 crore is being spent to dub it; an amount that can fund two Bhojpuri films. And as many as 50 to 60 prints of this Bhojpuri Spiderman will be released.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jack & Jill - Bihari Style

Everything looks better with a little bit of Bihari element in it :-)

The Unfeeling Madrasi

Just read this article Laloo Yadav beats Nehru hollow

If the heading gives an impression it is about the newly acquired management skills of Lalu, perish the thought. If the first paragraph makes you think it is about economic liberalisation, it is only partly right. The real intent is to bash Bihar, plain and simple. It comes as any article on Bihar bashing, short on data and long on rhetoric.

I quote: “By some yardsticks, Bihar exceeds the national average. Bihar’s infant mortality rate of 61 per 1,000 in 2002 was better than the national average of 63 per 1,000 ………. the quality of Bihar’s data collection is suspect, so I would not read too much into these figures”. So my dear learned friend, what should you go by? Your biased hunch or that of your equally dubious co workers?

Let me quote further “the collapse of law and order and the rise of criminals linked to Laloo was seen, locally, as lower castes improving their market share of Bihar’s biggest business — crime.” What has the author based this dubious conclusion? He rants that Lalu won three elections, implying the winning of elections as Biharis endorsement of crime. In his selective amnesia, he forgets that Lalu kept loosing his vote share in each election and was kept in power partly by the ineffective TN Seshan’s failure to conduct a fair election and partly due to AICC which chose to support Lalu in spite of the clear displeasure of BPCC. As soon as we had a fair election under KJ Rao, the whole equation changed.

Now read the openly contemptuous next paragraph “I suspect that Bihar exceeded 4% growth under Laloo mainly because Biharis could migrate to other states for jobs, send remittances home and bring back new skills.” What about the prosperity that the hardworking Bihari has brought to the states he has migrated to? Or they are employed as charity? What about the equally large remittance out of Bihar to support the large Bihar student population? Perhaps his economics does not allow these to be taken into consideration. Quite apart from the demeaning tone of the sentence, notice that this is being said in Mumbai where just recently Biharis were subject to tasteless racist remarks. Should I take this as an endorsement of those anti Bihari feeling?

Thus, he draws his conclusion, “Laloo succeeded for reasons beyond his control” Now notice the superciliousness of the concluding sentence “Even Bihar, which has terrible law and order, terrible roads and electricity, terrible education and telecom, has grown at close to 5% per year for over a decade.” Italics are mine, but rest of it is exactly as given by this special gift to mankind.

Does it ever occur to this expert of economics that Bihar has had the lowest per capita spend among all states in each five year plan since independence – when it was adjudged the best governed state and when it was felt it is the worst? Whether there were same party in power at state and centre or whether they were different, the situation never changed. It had to suffer the crippling freight equalisation scheme for close to three decades. That the most recent irrigation project in agricultural Bihar is the 19th century British built Son Canal system? That it does not have a single IIT, IIM, IARI, ICSR or DRDO lab? That PUSA, the only national agricultural research centre in the largely agricultural Bihar was shifted to Delhi, presumably to research the trees of Lutyens Delhi?

Why go so much in the past, just take the modern highway projects. Inevitably, the East West corridor and the Delhi – Kolkata highway pass through Bihar. But how many towns and cities of Bihar does it serve? It does not serve Patna, Gaya, Arrah, Chapra, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga or Samastipur. Neither does it serve Monghyr, Mokamah, Bettiah, Siwan or Sitamarhi. Muzaffapur is the only town of any consequence in the whole of Bihar or for that matter Jharkhand which would be served. Does the ‘economic’ expert have the foresight to see the injustice of all this? Smug in his south Mumbai office, he has perhaps never ventured into Bihar. But comment he must on Bihar. Not for him any guilt for the feeling of hurt his line of thinking may cause to eight crore Biharis. For him, Bihar is a punching bag, to be bashed.

In the syllabus of Bihar board where I did my Class X, we had a subject called Samajik Gyan or Social Studies. Prepared by eminent Bihari educationists, it had comprehensive coverage of the various regions of India. The teachers at my school did a very decent job of teaching us about the four south Indian states and the union territories of Pondicherry and Lakshadweep, their geography, language and culture. My school also had teachers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu teaching other subjects, economic migrants, who were accepted by Biharis with full dignity due to a teacher. Thus it was at an early age that I was made aware of the subtle and not so subtle differences between the south Indian states. Then why do I use the omnibus term Madrasi in my heading? This term is used by the south Indians to illustrate the ignorance of the north Indian about the south of Vindhyas and by Dilliwalas as a pejorative. Surely, I do not wish to demean the labour of the Bihar educationists, much less typecast people from south of Vindhyas. A Bihari, I know the pain of being typecast only too well and would not wish to do that to anybody.

It is my extreme angst at the totally un-empathetic tone of Mr Swaminathan Ankleswaria Aiyer that makes me use this term as a pejorative. It helps that no place is now known as Madras. Thus I can call this unfeeling person Madrasi without typecasting anyone from any region.

What future does a Bihari youth have when a senior journalist in a national newspaper have such an attitude?