Senior citizens in desperate need of jobs

India’s high tech city of Bangalore may have provided jobs to thousands of youngsters but almost ninety percent of the half a million population of senior citizens in Bangalore are looking for a job as they have no pension plans to take care of them.
Bangalore has become the tech hub of South India with most of the major IT companies having their offices here. It is a city where the young thrive, but another problem of large magnitudes is eating up the social fabric of the city. According to figures of Karnataka’s Department of Welfare of Disabled and Senior Citizens, Bangalore city has a total population of 5.28 million people. Of this entire population there are 565,668 elderly people in the city.
But the shocking fact is that eighty seven percent of the 565,668 elderly people have no pension plans to take care of them at the latter stages of their life. These senior citizens may have retired from their jobs some time ago but are facing a financial crisis with no income or pension plans. With continuing rise in inflation, it has become difficult for them to survive in a city like Bangalore. Hence these senior citizens are all looking for jobs from which they cans support themselves and their families. But in Bangalore jobs for senior citizens are not easy to find with the youth being preferred to them in almost all the jobs.
This is where the state government needs to take an initiative and try and provide jobs for the elderly. There are many Non government organizations working for the senior citizens but a bigger effort from the part of the government is the need of the hour.
Most of these senior citizens even after retiring from their respective jobs are physically as well as mentally fit to take up another job. But it is not easy to find one. They are all in desperate need of a job to empower them financially as their life savings are fast reducing.
This is a problem not limited to the city of Bangalore but senior citizens from all over the country face it. India is home to the highest population of youngsters in the world and in another 25 years would take over as the home to the highest population of senior citizens in the world. Right now there are almost eighty million people over the age of sixty all over India and again almost ninety percent of them are not covered under any pension or retirement plans.
Some of these elders do not have children to take care of them and they do need a job to be able to carry the monthly expenditures. On the other hand society has moved forward so briskly that many youngsters leave their parents and settle abroad and again their parents are left back without any income to fend for themselves. In certain cases, it is more a matter of financially empowering them and lead a life of dignity without having to ask anyone for money.
There can be several part time jobs that can be made available to senior citizens such as that of teachers, government officers, small scale industries and even the work from home jobs so that they can work as well as earn enough to support their family. Initiatives in this regard have been taken up by NGO’s like Nightingales Medical trust which has helped seventy two senior citizens get a job in the past four years. But with more than five lakh senior citizens still jobless and in dire need of an income, the effort will have to be a much bigger one. Atleast the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens bill, 2007, should be implemented soon. The bill if passes makes it legally necessary for children to provide maintenance to their parents. As a society itself we need to put ourselves in their shoes to imagine the trauma that they are going through and hence introduce senior citizen jobs to financially empower them.

Six year old’s family devastated in Ahmedabad Blasts

Every time there is a Blast, hundreds of innocents are left dead. Whenever there is an act of terror, it is the common man that faces the brunt. Here’s a story of a six year old in Ahmedabad whose family has been devastated in the blasts tragedy.
At the blast outside the Civil hospital in Ahmedabad, two brothers Yash and Rohan were gravely injured. Yash is a six year old who is too young to understand the terror that has hit his family. On Saturday evening, Yash’s father Dushyant Vyas had planned to teach him how to ride a bicycle. Yash had been bought a bicycle a day before by his father who was a X ray technician at the hospital. Yash now lies in the ward of the civil hospital having multiple injuries on his body. Next to his bed lies his elder brother Rohan who is in a much graver situation then him. Doctors presume that he might not see light at the end of his misery. Every now and then when Yash yelps in pain, the entire hospital wants to question as to what this young boy is doing there. He should have been riding the bicycle as was planned. But the terrorists had other plans. Dushyant vyas’ body has just been brought home from the mortuary. The news of his father’s death has not been told to Yash yet. His mother does not have the strength to convey this to him. Meanwhile in the hospital doctors and medical staff attend to this young boy who is in excruciating pain. Yash has lost his father and his brother is in critical situation. His is one of the several families that have been devastated in the serial blasts that rocked Ahmedabad city. It seems a terrorist group is behind this blast but surely no human can take this responsibility of brutally killing innocent people.
Every time there are blasts in India, it is covered by the major newspapers and media channels. After a few days the news dies away. India has been on the terrorist’s radar for a long time with serial bomb blasts having rocked all the major cities in India. After Iraq and perhaps Afganisthan, India is the most terror prone zone in the world. These blasts are nothing but a cowardly act of terror from a group of insane fundamentalists. The perpetrators of these blasts will have answers to give on judgment day.
To say that India is a soft target would not be over exaggerating. The Indian police have done nothing to catch the criminals who have hands in these blasts. Imagine if a terrorist attach would hit US, it would rather go on war with every nation that had terrorists in order to protect the security of its people. But in India blasts have become a common thing now and the intelligence authorities can do nothing about them.
We need to get over the tragedy that struck Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Try telling this to young Yash, who would not understand why he was on the receiving end of this dastardly act. His hopes of learning how to ride a bicycle were devastated and he cannot even mourn his fathers death for he is not aware of it. Every time there is a blast, we move on with our day to day lives after a few days keeping the horrifying sequence of events behind us. But the police and the intelligence authorities should not forget and forgive, catch the perpetrators and deal with them in the harshest manner possible.

India is a Soft Terror Target

INDIA HAS once again been attacked. In the less than 24 hours, terrorists have struck again. Unfortunately, it is not new to our nation. In the last four years, we have experienced over a dozen attacks in the various parts of the country, which includes, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Malegaon, Mumbai, Lucknow, Varanasi, Delhi and Hyderabad. The ease with which these terror attacks are being carried out, raises a question: Whether terror-strikes have become as common as theft?

Terrorism in India has taken the form of an iceberg and till date we haven’t been able to unearth more than the tip of this iceberg. As the Center for Defense Information, America says, “India has been the victim of more terrorist attacks, both domestic and international, on its territory than any other country.”

The more disturbing thing is the soft approach of our government. We have a government that is bent on giving a ’safe haven’ to the terrorists. The government has completely failed to face and anticipate that these ’regular’ terror attacks are results a lack of coordination between the intelligence, and the central and state government. The government just uses the agenda of religion as a weapon and tolerance as a breeding ground for terror activities. We, as responsible citizens must question this attitude of government. India has been a top target for militants, and yet the central and the state government doesn’t wake up for some serious action regarding counter attack. It is behaving timidly and relentlessly with such an abysmal, shameless and stoic attitude.

Before naming anyone, government needs to set its responsibilities right. If there is lack of coordination among the state and the central agencies then the government needs to address that first. Every time terror attacks take place, the state agencies blame the Centre and in turn, the Centre washes its hands saying that the state government was warned beforehand but no heed was paid to the warning.

I don’t understand what the ministers are doing at the central level? They need to be more accountable. There is more to their job than just condemning the blasts and waiting for the investigation report. And one must not play politics when it comes to the issue of national security.

Have you ever heard of any breakthrough in these terror investigations? I haven’t heard any (apart from the Parliament attack, but we haven’t been able to hang the guilty yet) instance, where we have been able to nail the mastermind behind the attack. The investigations are going on at all places mentioned before and might continue to go on and on with no results.

We don’t have the spine to take action against these terrorists because of the politics involved. Senior intelligence officials like Ajay Sinha, Raman, TV Rajeswar have pointed out that over 1.5 crores Bangladeshis are overstaying in India. What have we done till date to look into this serious matter? What is even more surprising is that our home minister is not bothered about how these Bangladeshis could come in from the eastern part of the country and settle in various parts. Rather, he is more bothered about the human rights of infiltrators.

What a pity that we don’t have any specific laws dedicated to counter-terrorism. Every major country has such laws but we go the other way round. The government dismissed the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) that was specially designed to tackle terrorism. United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is also sitting on the Apex court’s decision to remove the Illegal Migrants Determination by Tribunals (IMDT) Act.

The government have been ineffectual in destroying the sleeping cells and local support for the terrorists. All because it say, “Let us not target any particular community”. Who is asking them to target an entire community? The Muslim community is not a party to terror and only a few people are responsible for it, then why does the government believe that any attempt to nab the terrorists would lead to opposition from the community?

The people who justify these acts should also be surceased. In India, we have list of such people, who try bizzare logic in defence of terrorists in cases such as the Babri Mosque case, Gujarat Riots or poverty. Fouad Ajami, arguably one of the most politically influential Arab-American intellectuals of this generation says, “There is another issue that has been brought to the fore by commentaries on the UK bombings: The role of apologists, fellow travellers and grievance peddlers, who exhort us to ’understand basic issues’ and attend to ’root causes’, instead of focussing on the challenge of terrorism.

Senseless Bangalore Renaming ?

What’s in a name? A lot apparently if the spate of Indian city renaming in recent years is any indication: Trivandrum, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore have been renamed and many more proposed: Delhi, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Patna to name a few. Not just happy with the cities, many anglicized names of localities, sub localities and streets have fallen prey to this senseless and futile exercise. I have been holding back my pen for a while now for fear of being branded querulous. But a chance visit to the home I grew up in rekindled my disgust for ill-intended renamings. I’m hoping against hope that the Union Home Ministry will not do the expected and bless Bangalore’s pending name change to Bengaluru, but show some spine and say No.

Bangalore2 months ago I went to visit the house I grew up in Malleshwaram,Bangalore. With few changes, the locality was still the quintessential middle class extension of Malleshwaram that nourished the dreams and aspirations of many like me, albeit now with a new name. The new name, ‘Sudhindra Nagar’ from a few years ago, is Indian all right, but for many residents–past and present, it couldn’t be more alien. It’s anglicized predecessor ‘Swimming Pool Extension’ is still dear to many — me included.

Why was this called ‘Swimming Pool Extension’ ? Not many have a clue and I am no exception. The closest water body to the extension, a ‘Dodda Mori’(Big Sewer) near the Dattatreya temple road is no pool ! The nearest public swimming pool being miles away in Sadashivnagar and a different variety of a pool, for donkeys if you will — a dhobhi ghat, in Vyalikaval could not be the sources of inspiration either. Whatever the reasoning, it was called ‘Swimming Pool Extension’ and few had issues with it.

As I look back to the days I spent in the locality learning the ropes of life, I cannot but question the renaming to ‘Sudhindra Nagar(a)’. In Malleshwaram, be it ‘Raman’s Corner’ or ‘Chowpatti’ or ‘Veena Stores’, you went there as it had a niche specialty in cuisine ; ‘Venus Dresses’ on 8th cross was right opposite another divine named cloth shop — ‘Bhagwan Stores’. ‘The Coconut Avenue road’ and ‘Mill Corner’ did not thumb their noses at Kannada named ‘Kodandaramapura’ and the ‘Gutthalli’ they bordered. The anglicized names have never been a problem for most people as they do realize that it is a part of the city’s history and growing up. But realization comes with thought, and thought needs grey matter. You would be hard pressed to find much of grey matter beneath those neta topis ! Brown is more what you would find. And we let these dimwits insult us by letting them tell us why this needs changed ?

In many cases of city renamings, the ‘new’ names are simply the names by which these cities have always been known in the native language : Bangalore was always Bengaluru in Kannada. So why the change in recent years ? In many other instances of renaming, people just ignore the new name while gleefully continuing to use the old names — some, like me, on purpose as a mark of protest. This attempt to re-write history just tantamounts to insulting the local history in the bargain. But it seems foolish to expect the netas to understand and respect local history.

Let’s play devil’s advocate and argue for the renaming. I will stick with Bangalore as it’s name change is still pending. Per the most popular anecdotal origins of Bangalore’s naming, a poor old woman served a starved Veera Ballala (the Hoysala king) boiled beans. The grateful King named the city “benda kaal-ooru“–city of boiled beans. Since, need for brevity combined with colonialism morphed the name to Bangalore. Let’s set aside the name for a minute and dwell on the story. A King and a stranger felt welcome in the meager environs of the old woman’s hut ; he was so touched by the hospitality that he named the city thus. When I think of that story, I am compelled to think how often would such a thing happen today ? No, I’m not asking you to imagine Wodeyar eating ‘raagi mudde‘(raagi balls) in a tenement, but how often does someone look around them, see an opportunity to make someone feel better, and follow thru ? More importantly, the netas, having sworn themselves to public servitude should grab the opportunities.

The government can apply itself and make the Bangaloreans feel better and proud of their city like no renaming can. But, they are content forgetting the essence of the story and latching onto a name that has changed since. We are losing Bangalore to a systemic decay and all that we can do is latch onto to is a name ? Sure, ‘Bangalore’ is different than what was originally christened, but is trying to push the hands of time a sensible feat ? Not to mention the cost(manpower & financial) of the renaming which would have been of better service to save many a problems that plague the city. Then there’s the hidden agenda — votes and 15 minutes of fame.

In this era of one-upmanship, thanks to U R Ananthamurthy’s suggestion, Bangalore and 10 other cities in Karnataka, and a horde of localities, sub-localities and roads are being renamed while little else changes. That’s a stupid attempt at rural vote bank appeasement. The perpetrators of that stupidity : Politicians trying to extract mileage, and a Jnanapith laureate who is inventing ways to be in the limelight are hardly opposed. The Union Ministry that is to ratify the same can stop it; but may not. Given that, one might argue it’s a day late and a dime short for opposing. It isn’t. The future will usher a new wave of renaming as well and a strong opposition may help.

I had to send a few cards for the new years recently. I did, with ‘Bangalore’ and ‘Swimming Pool Extn’ emblazoned and they reached just fine. I’m in no mood to refer either by their Ananthamurthy and ilk coerced name. It may seem futile and useless, but I’m not gunning for much sans being able to look myself in the mirror. It’s a start, and my way of saying (respectfully) ‘Mr.Ananthamurthy & gang, go to hell …’.

Bangalore : ‘BYTE’-ing the dust ? – Part2

Part-1 of this series : Surviving the BYTE, recounted how Bangalore transformed from a city with calm and undeniable charm, to a commotion ridden beast. With both the locals and the non-locals complicit to it’s downfall, Bangalore seemed to be headed for doom. What with the backbone of Bangalore — IT, threatening to pull out and the IT Czars publicly threatening to desert the city unless they were satiated. Is Bangalore BYTE-ing the dust ? Not yet. Not even in the conceivable future.

Much has changed since 2004-05, when the IT Czars threatened a pullout. Not only did they come back to the city, they now have major expansion plans as well. The cultural tension between the locals and the non-locals, still exists ; but people have found a way around it. Bad infrastructure and politics, is endured — albeit grudgingly. Was there some magic pill for all the ill ? Yes, money. Apparently there is nothing like the sound of money. Despite the problems, the city has seen an un-abated flow of foreign equity investments. With it, the IT giants realized they cannot afford to not have a major presence in Bangalore. The jobs are still abundant, the local economy is booming, malls and restaurants are sprouting everywhere. Despite the glaring issues, Bangalore is working — very well at that, and the doomsdayish predictions from 2004-05 have abated and the death knells halted.

Of late, there are other new developments among locals — a new wave of outspoken, at times brash youngsters, who, affected by the changes they saw, are vociferous about their presence. In these youngsters, there is a palpable sense of linguistic pride and Kannada usage. Changes are elsewhere too : the once defunct Kannada movies is seeing a golden run — probably not seen since the glorious days of Puttanna Kanagal ; Kannada TV serials have iconic following ; art expos like ‘chitra santhe‘ have sprouted ; FM stations have a mixture of offerings, Kannada included ; when pushed back by non-Kannadigas, the local youth is fighting back — was not the case 5-6 years ago. This is seen as a much needed antidote to the city that has endured the BYTE’ing. Among the locals : veterans, youngsters and everyone in between included, seem to approve of this quasi-cultural awakening.

The Kannada awakening, culminating with outspoken demeanor : Orkut groups like ‘Gaanchali Bidu Kannada Maatadu‘ have created a sense of realization in the non-Kannadiga populace. They seem to get the need to blend in. Many cities would cringe with a 70% non-local population and Bangalore is no different. Bangalore has always had the reputation of being a cosmopolitan city ; it still is, else, it would not have been hospitable to the massive influx (and we are far from seeing the end of it).

Dwelling on the cultural/linguistic rift, why does it exist ? When threatened by a loss of identity in their own backyard, local populace views non-locals as outsiders thus forcing the local culture to stand up and show spine. That’s what is happening in Bangalore. Increased and vocal dis approvals, many rightly so, as in the case of Railways conniving to stack it’s offices in Karnataka with Biharis, and some, not rightly so, like reservations in software sector for locals (quite rightly rejected by the Czars), have increased. There is a definitive shift in the status-quo.

When a culture opens it’s doors, voluntarily or by the compulsions of economics, the onus is on the emigres to acknowledge the gesture, blend in and be a part of it’s success. Most countries mandate that. Why should it be any different when it is between states of India, where the cultures-language-cuisine is so different as in say, two European countries ? When you decide to come live in a different culture, is it too much to expect that you blend in and not stick out like a sore thumb ? If you do stick out, and more so as a group unto itself and hence a clenched fist rather — not just a sore thumb, with scant disregard for the host’s feelings, it is bound to stress the cultural fabric, no matter how venerable or how evolved the culture is. You see these fissures in Karnataka-TN or Maharashtra-Gujrat or USA-Mexico. Hence the quote, when in Rome, be a Roman..

There is no doubt, the non-locals ought to do more in Bangalore : blend in, learn the basics of the new culture, treat this as their home and not a pit-stop/alien land. Some signs of that happening are evident. We Kannadigas can do better as well. The Kannada awakening was much needed and is good. But we need to control the tone of it. I would much rather say ‘Jamba bidu Kannada Maatadu'(discard the false pride, learn Kannada) than a ‘Gaanchali Bidu Kannada Maatadu'(discard the arrogance, learn Kannada — though seemingly innocuous, gaanchali is oft used with prefixes that makes it potent, hence the disdain..). We are better than that.

Yes, there are changes, some for the better, some for the worse. But change is the only thing that’s constant. I believe most people in our country are fair and, are cognizant of the fact that, they, have a mutual stake in the success of one another. Given the above inevitability, there is an underlying dormant sense of camaraderie that needs tapped. Once done, it furthers individual development while contributing to the growth of our nation. We Bangaloreans, locals and non-locals included, have been the beacons of change in Software, Hardware and Bio-tech arenas. We can, again, be the change that unfurls the melting pot of India — Bangalore, and, be proud of it. All of this, without losing our identity or individuality – The whole being greater than the sum of parts.

Bangalore : Surviving the ‘BYTE’ – Part1

With an undeniable laid back charm, not so long ago, Bangalore was your quaint old south Indian city — a pensioner’s paradise and a garden city. Misty mornings heralded the start of beautiful, often sunny days. Laden with rich aroma of filter coffee, crisp morning air soon displaced this misty blur. The tune of suprabhata would fill the neighborhoods from some one’s old transistor. Close on the heels of milk and newspaper delivery, the ubiquitous darshinis(eateries) readied their fare for the morning commuters. As the Suprabhatas turned to news, a steady stream of traffic would fill the roads and the eateries.Good Morning Bangalore.

Passing the baton, the short-lived ‘peak hour’ bustle, would lead into a warm mid morning calm. As the postman did his rounds, retirees perused the newspapers on their patios, soaking in the morning’s tender sun. Ladies bartered sugar, coffee and gossip standing across the compound walls in the shade of the omnipresent coconut trees. Selling his interesting wares, a hawker or two would often lead to an emergency session of the street Parliament — cartels formed, deals negotiated, decisions made and the news of a good buy reaching the other end of the street in seconds ! Life was easy. The whistle of the pressure cooker, often the spoiler of such fun, ushered the lunch hour. Fresh cooked anna, saaru, palya would fill the noon air. Bon-Appetite. Lunch made way for a calmer afternoon good till the kids came running home.

Evenings were never dull either : kids playing at street corners ; teenagers chatting away endlessly at the front gates ; walks on Sampige or Margosa roads ; idyllic meetings of seniors in Jayanagar-4th block complex; savoring panipuriat Ramakrishna Ashram or Seshadripuram ; the street market bustle of Malleshwaram 8th cross or Gandhi Bazaar, evenings had their share of simplistic fun before a staple of TV and dinner. There was much to be happy about in this predictable, chaos free simplicity.

Though a generalization, Bangaloreans have always loved simplicity. They take great pride in their simple happiness pursuits. Simple, polite, family oriented are some qualities that are a commonplace in Karnataka as the Bisibele Bhath, Kodubale and Akki Rotti. Do not let the unassuming simplicity fool you, for quite a few successful people hail from Bangalore — after all, the software boom did not happen by itself.

Even in the most famous of it’s sons, Kannadigas have a sense of obeisance to an inner discipline and simplicity. To me, a prime example is Anil Kumble : while playing, he is one of the more grittier and determined cricketers our country has seen (remember his fractured jaw strapped into place by a thick bandage, an injured Kumble, returned to claim Lara’s wicket in the Windies tour of 2002 ), while off the field, he is possibly the nicest, most unassuming person you will meet. Kannadigas bring that attitude and charm to what they do.

The non-stoic stance, the welcoming nature, beautiful weather, abundance of scientific brainpower and the cost arbitrage to outsource led to a steady flow of traffic — of software companies. MNCs and software companies, people who wanted to be in these companies, their vehicles and their baggage in tow(emotional & cultural), made a beeline for Bangalore — cumulatively changing it for ever. This influx led to the software wave, crowning Bangalore as the numero-uno of the Indian software hubs — ‘The Silicon Valley of India’. This gold rush had not gone unnoticed and there was a huge stream of people trickling into Bangalore from various parts of India. Local businesses and non-local job aspirants alike benefited from this growth and wealth. Seemed like a win-win situation — till it got out of hand. With the crown and the wealth, came woes : uncontainained traffic, soaring real estate prices, failing infrastructure and, last but not the least — a melange of people.

Per reliable estimates, only 30 per cent of Bangalore’s residents speak the local language, Kannada, today. The last decade of IT boom that put Bangalore on the global map, also made it a city dominated by non-localites. There is, of course, no justification for saying that any region of India be inhabited by members of one linguistic community only, in case of Bangalore, the Kannadigas(and all it’s flavors). But often the reality is too twisted to be framed to such idealistic frameworks.

Very many of the new entrants did not do much to help the situation either. For most parts, they chose to live in their own groups, often not blending with the locals or picking up basics of Kannada ; thanks in part to a lack of need for it and, in part due to a misguided sense of linguistic pride — picking up Kannada tantamounting to reduced allegiance to their mother tongue. When in a new city, there is hardly any bad in seeking people who hail from your hometown — it is almost second nature. The problem started when these groups became vocal and abrasive to the extent that it made the locals feel unwelcome in their localities.

Early 90s set the stage for the future things to come when the discontentment poured into the streets during the Cauveri water disputes . The water dispute was the last straw and a reason. Violence marred the city. Chennai returning the favor, just added to the fire. The tension is very much alive even today and flows in the moment water levels in Cauveri recedes.

Like I have stated, many a times : ‘Politicians are like diapers — almost always full of crap ; if not, it’s just a matter of time’. Among these politicians, Karnataka is blessed with the worst of their ilk. Add to this, the woes of traffic congestion, rising real estate prices, bridges and flyovers built where one was not needed and eventually ending up impeding the traffic flow (after construction dragging on for years), IT Czars threatening to walk out on the city and the state. It was chaos.

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Was it just chaos or, was it the sound of Bangalore’s death knell ? Is Bangalore BYTE’ing the dust? Read on in part-2 ..

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