Thursday, March 5, 2015

Has the time come for rewriting ancient Indian history?

Rajan Agarwal
Is history merely what is written in our text books, meticulously compiled by esteemed historians through years of research and excavation or is the history that which has been carefully hidden and needs to be revisited. A single event in history has many deviations be it about the Indus valley or Vedas or caste system or for that matter most of the events of the ancient Indian period. While reading about the events in the ancient period we face numerous questions and are unable to justify ourselves for lack of evidence. 

Some literary sources have praised a conqueror while others have tagged him as an invader. There has been an inherent bias among historians too which has corrupted the interpretation of history. Some texts were written to the praise of rulers and accorded them godly status while others criticised even their humane acts. Is a one sided approach or a balanced approach justified or are we still far from the truth. History without archaeological or literary evidence is termed mythological or fictional but stories arise from everyday happenings and an element of truth, be it of any minuscule proportion, must have been there. 

The rapid advances in science and technology such as remote sensing and satellite technology, along with new findings from sonar readings and carbon dating of submerged underwater man-made sites have helped us immensely in recreating and studying history and full use should be made of it. The worst part about all this research and new discoveries is that these changes are not reflected in the textbooks and students keep reading about things they did 20-25 years ago. One might argue what difference would it make if we come to know that people of Indus valley were ruled by merchants or by priests, whether they cultivated xyz crops, whether Ashoka was as noble as projected or whether Vedic age preceded Harappan civilisation? These questions are mired in debates which have remained inconclusive mostly.

One must not forget the time period and people under whom our history was penned down. It was during the colonial era that excavations took place and different interpretations were given to suit their own needs. It was during this time that two extreme views were put forward by the colonial historians and nationalist historians. The essence of the debate was who was superior and it defeated the purpose of historiography. It is this debate which has continued till date.

The colonial historiography of India was based on the pre-conceptions and debates about the orient in the then European society. This resulted in the creation of the ‘stereotype’ of the Indian society which was the ‘other’ to the European society. With the maxim ‘knowledge is power’ in mind, the history of India was being shaped in a way, so as to help in legitimising the European control over the sub-continent. The Aryan invasion was indeed a masterly stroke on the part of the British: thanks to the Aryan theory, they showed on the one hand that Indian civilisation was not that ancient and that it was posterior to the cultures which influenced the western world - Mesopotamia, Sumeria, or Babylon - and on the other hand, that whatever good things India had developed - Sanskrit, literature, or even its architecture, had been influenced by the West. Thus, Sanskrit, instead of being the mother of all Indo-European languages, became just a branch of their huge family; thus, the religion of Zarathustra is said to have influenced Hinduism - as these Aryan tribes were believed to have transited through numerous countries, Persia being one, before reaching India - and not vice versa. The dating of the Vedas and the wrong interpretation of the caste system and its gradual degeneration to suit vested interests are other issues to be looked into.

The Nationalist school of historians emerged towards the end of the 19th century. Their interpretation was used for the anti-colonial movement for independence. In this school, history was used for two purposes, firstly, to establish the identity of Indians and secondly by establishing the superiority of the past over the present. For the first purpose, the Aryan theory of race and other similar concepts came handy, whereas for the second purpose, the concept of the ‘golden era of the Hindu civilisation’ was created. This was done because the remoteness in history of the ‘golden age’ was directly proportional to its utility in imaginative reconstructions and inversely proportional to factual scrutiny. The basic thing to be noted is that, the colonial nationalists to a large extent used the same methods of historiography as the imperialists but they interpreted these ‘facts’ differently so as to suit their socio-political needs.

The makeshift temple that was erected at Ayodhya after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, the Ram Janmabhoomi temple was not only the privileging of faith over reason, but also the identification of an enemy who acted against the religious interests of Hindus. Among the variety of factors that define the relationship between communalism and revivalism in India, history plays a central role. There is widespread belief that soon text books will be revised or rewritten, to inculcate such a strongly misleading and divisive brand of history among pupils in our schools," the historians said in a resolution passed at the platinum jubilee session of the prestigious Indian History Congress. 

The speed of the attempted textbook revision had been so fast that the newly reconstituted NCERT evidently had some difficulty in find­ing historians to do this task who would be both reasonably distin­guished and adequately compliant. In the early school textbooks that emanated from the NCERT, there was not only the predictable sectarian bias in the direction of the politics of `Hindutva', but also numerous factual mistakes of a fairly straightforward kind. School children were to be taught, in one of the textbooks, that Madagascar was `an island in the Arabian sea and that Lancashire had been `a fast-growing industrial town'.Quite predictably, leftists in India raised a cry of tampering with history, as if history is a fixed science that cannot be adjusted.Former Union minister Shashi Tharoor has apparently come out in support of BJP minister Dr Harsh Vardhan's claim that Greeks and Arabs received credit for advances in Mathematics that rightfully belong to India. He goes on to state that Indian mathematicians invented negative numbers: the British mathematician Lancelot Hogben, grudgingly acknowledging this, suggested ungraciously that "perhaps because the Hindus were in debt more often than not, it occurred to them that it would also be useful to have a number which represent the amount of money one owes".

 The time has come for rewriting ancient Indian History! Are we indeed afraid of the truth so much that we have so forth not incorporated the recent excavation in standard textbooks? With time new schools of thought has emerged-the Marxist and the Subaltern which has given a more holistic interpretation of the events and forces us in the direction of rewriting ancient Indian history. What is holding us back? Are we afraid what we have known for years as truth and supported our claims will change? Are we afraid we will have to face questions for which we will have no answer? Students have the right to know about the real facts of historical events which could be corroborated with proofs and sugar coated events tend to make the subject more like a fairy tale. Debatable portions of history have been termed mythological and no significant efforts are being undertaken to undertake further research.

This attempt at rewriting history is of course meeting with a lot of resistance on the part of those who have a vested interest in keeping Indian history under wraps, as well as those who for decades have taught and written books and articles which blindly copied the British version. But nevertheless, unless it is done truthfully, however painful it could be for certain sections of India’s vast ethnic and religious mosaic, India will never be able to face squarely its own history and evolve a justified pride in its great and ancient civilisation.
Rajan has a keen interest in history.He inspects the recent furore over 'real' history.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

UPSC CSAT: From Big Bang to Whimper?

On a sedate Sunday afternoon, within the laxities of Kolkata, sometime in July; with as far as the memory lane can be stretched backwards, I received a call from one of the reputed – if not the most vibrant TV channels of the country. It was not unusual and as on previous occasions, I expected a call for participation in a debate on the Maoist movement. 

At that juncture I was attempting to decipher any recent acts of insurgency which could propel the channel to conduct any such show. Before I could gather the notoriety of the Maoists, I was basically taken aback at the query posed by my friend from the media: “Is there any separate examination conducted after the Civil Services Examination, so as to select the candidates for IAS, IPS etc.?” 

After I uttered a blunt “No”, she continued with added zeal and without any apparent dismay; “Then what is the procedure for selecting candidates to the different services? And how many services are there?” I felt contented to have satiated her thirst for knowledge about the ‘Steel Frame of India.’ At the same time, however, I was not at all a bit, but rather perplexed to have discovered the lack of information about the country’s arguably most arduous examination – and that too for an informed and giant media-house.

The Roaring July

Let’s not castigate my friend from the media for not having adequate information about the Civil Services Examination [CSE]. She surely wasn’t the only one. July 2014 witnessed a series of agitations in the Indian Capital – especially in those ‘gullies’ and streets of Mukherjee Nagars and Rajinder Nagars which are thronged by the civil service coaching centres. Sustained as they were, sometimes the aspirant-police duel in the streets, lanes and chowks imitated the anarchic realm composed by the sans-culottes during the momentous French Revolution. Equally upbeat was the string of reportage and analytical pieces inundating the print and digital media.

Though Louis XVI diarised “Nothing”, 14 July 1789 was a day of the beginning of the end of the Ancien Regime in France. The storming of the fort of Bastille on that day scripted a radical departure from the past. It was not mere symbolism, but sculpting of a new era – decorated with the engravings of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The spirited aspirants of Civil Services, claimed to ‘fight’ from an alleged plane of inequality so as to uplift not only themselves but their entire brethren across the country to a dais of equality and in the process had the affront to liberate the system from its ancient trappings of sheer elitism and colonial relics.

Without delving into the rationale of the agitations, the Kaun Banega Crorepati question, however is, whether the diligent, enthusiastic and gumptious aspirants – cutting across gender, religion and region; succeeded in achieving what they had set out for? Could they make a mark, rather an indelible imprint on the history of student agitation in India, as the subaltern sans-culottes could do during the late 1780s and early 1790s in Paris? Or even on a lesser intensity – could they achieve anything noteworthy so as to equate them with the European and Latin American students dreaming romanticism to bring an end to the neo-liberal agenda in the 1960s? Or could they manage a reflection of the Bengalee students of the lanes and by-lanes of College Street of the late 1960s and early 1970s? Or did they simply run helter-skelter?

Their demands were starkly different. I mean that of the Parisian mobs, the fans of Franz Fanon in Europe and the followers of Chairman Mao in erstwhile Calcutta; and the Delhi-ite aspirants of CSE on the other hand. Undoubtedly so. The former underprivileged set [Parisian mobs] were fighting for bread and loaf whilst the latter group, with all not being privileged and naturally so, were forcing their demands for a change in the examination structure in order to build a passage connecting their flats and chawls with the corridors of power. 

Mere ‘bread’ was never their agenda; cakes, pies and chocobars of power and authority always were. Setting the trajectory of liberty and equality through the labyrinth of antiquated and improvident state structures was in no way their goal; settling scores with the Union Public Service Commission [UPSC] for the latter’s revised examination pattern definitely was.

On that count, the CSE aspirants were probably mimicking the Calcutta rebels of the 1960s & 70s – to the extent of ransacking the corridors of education and defying any standard sets, norms and patterns of examination. Liberty – was the clarion call !

One concern indubitably emerges – a set of aggressive individuals – sometimes though with a facade of non-violence and Gandhi-esque fasts, hell bent upon having their demands accepted; do they ‘qualify’ for being Civil Servants and nurture the ‘disciplined’ master-servant hierarchy in India’s bureaucracy, even if they may qualify the CSE? Or is this the New India with would-be-bureaucrats in their neo-avatars which indicate a de-bureaucratisation of the colonial vestige?

August Engulfs All

The unrest fizzled, if not completely petered out by the first week of August by when the government assured of addressing the demands of the agitators. By the way, what exactly were they demanding? To appreciate this question, it is germane to understand the erstwhile structure of the CSE. The examination for the coveted services is duly conducted by UPSC – a constitutional body and it takes place in two stages: Preliminary and Mains. However, the Mains further encompass a Personality Test and the combined marks obtained in the written part in the Mains and the Personality Test determines the final merit of the candidate. 

The rank in the merit list alongwith the preference for services finally place a candidate/aspirant in a particular Civil Service – viz. Indian Administrative Service [IAS], Indian Foreign Service [IFS], Indian Police Service [IPS], Indian Revenue Service [IRS], Indian Defence Accounts Service [IDAS], Indian Defence Estates Service [IDES], Indian Audit and Accounts Service [IA&AS] and so on. With over three hundred thousand candidates appearing at the initial stage of the examination and the numbers are growing every year – reportedly four and half hundred thousand in 2014; it is imperative for UPSC to screen or ‘weed out’ the so-called ‘non-serious’ candidates at the initial stage itself – hence the justification to have a Preliminary exam or ‘Prelims’.

The Prelims consist of two papers on General Studies [in fact, there is no paper titled CSAT – it’s a name coined by the coaching institutes of Delhi and seem to be favourably buttressed by the media] – the first paper concentrates on anything and everything about India – her polity, history, geography, economy among others; alongwith a focus on environment, ecology, human diseases and basic sciences of matriculation level. 

The level of the questions varies from year to year. Nevertheless, it could be said with impunity that no average being on the street with a graduation degree will be able to answer those. Though UPSC assures that no specialised knowledge is necessary to tackle the questions in Paper I, it is not always so. Whatever, some serious knowledge about India from the pages of the plus two text books of National Council of Educational Research and Training [NCERT] or as gleaned through Bipan Chandra’s historiography and that doyen D D Basu’s scholarship is essential – if one is serious enough not only to scurry past Prelims but crack the code in Mains.

The Fundamentals

It’s the General Studies Paper II [GS II] which was the bone of contention during the July agitations. The agitpropists were keen to abrogate the paper altogether. Their demand was based on the fundamental premise that the paper was discriminatory and hence skewed against the aspirants coming from the vernacular mediums / humanities background. In what way?

GS II actually contains in its realm Mathematics of class X standard, Decision Making problems for administrators, data interpretation and logical reasoning, and finally English Comprehension – again of class X level. However, it is safe to point out here that the syllabi delineated by UPSC for CSE in reality can always ‘cross the Alps or Rubicon’ – without rationalising for the same. To be fair to UPSC or any examining / recruiting body, the privilege of choosing the examination pattern / structure / level of questions should lie with that body and not on the examinees. In this case, we may do well to remember that the CSE is an examination with high stakes for many actors – aspirants, coaching industry based in Delhi and North India, media and government – and thus so much under the scanner. 

And more so since it’s an examination to choose the country’s bureaucrats, there are always the questions of equitable social representation in the top echelons of civil service. Nobody raises eyebrows when the questions of the management entrance examination – the mighty CAT [Common Admission Test] or stylish XAT [Xavier Aptitude Test] – cross the sphere of toughness and venture into the zone of ‘very difficult’ mathematical riddles or incomprehensible passages in English. Agitations and fracas however continued with the police on the aspect of whether to have a GS II paper – which according to a section of the aspirants, is / was discriminatory / exclusive because of it containing English passages [though with lesser degree of toughness compared with CAT / XAT] and maths [again with a level lower than XAT / CAT].

Furthermore, it is to be noted that there is a full-scale English paper of 250 marks of the level of class X at the Mains stage. The paper is of qualifying nature only; i.e. marks scored in this paper will not be counted for merit determination but aspirants will have to pass this paper if they are to be considered for a rank. Secondly, the State Civil Service Commissions; viz. that of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh conduct their Prelims having English as a subject / topic and there seems to be no hue and cry against it. Thirdly, isn’t it interesting to observe that only a few hundred aspirants road-blocking in Delhi should be strong enough to shake the authorities? Even with all magnification of this July-agitation, an honest journalistic submission must be that this movement was narrowly local and not broadly representative.

In fact, why the aspirants from the regional bases; especially the Hindi-belt, not voicing their concerns? Why was there no movement expressing solidarity with their Delhi brethren through social networking sites? On the contrary, posts over Facebook were rather antagonistic to the anti-CSAT tirade.

A plausible counter-argument would be that ‘most’ of the aspirants assemble at Delhi for preparation and hence agitations at Delhi reflect the pulse of the nation in this regard. Though there is no gainsaying the fact that due to centrality in location, accessibility to coaching institutes and study materials and Delhi being the seat of political power, it is all the more logical to have a substantial number of aspirants staying / preparing / appearing for the exams from Delhi. In 2014, around 66,000 candidates took the Prelims from Delhi. Clearly, it shows that everything about CSE is not in Delhi with close to four hundred thousand taking the Prelims from other parts of the country. With the rise of the internet, information and study materials are now at the press of a nimble finger – and the regional players are also seemingly confident of unfettering the anchorage of Delhi. 

The myth of Delhi is slowly eroding with toppers and qualifiers coming from Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and other regions. So what happened to those voices in non-Delhi India? Or did they not have the consciousness to fathom the gravity of the problem / oppression by UPSC and revolt accordingly? Or were they simply looking at the Big Brothers and Sisters in Delhi to show them the path to salvation?

The Debate

Since 2011 – the year of introduction of GS II/CSAT in Prelims, UPSC in its bilingual question paper format, is setting two types of passages in English – one set quite simple and without Hindi translation; while the other having the translation but relatively difficult. Along with the fundamental demand of scrapping the GS II altogether, the protestors also expressed extreme reservations on the quality of translation - which according to them turn out to be bizarre since the Google Translator is used without much application of mind. The big question is whether inclusion of English Passages while selecting the Civil Servants should be construed as discriminatory? This may not be fundamentally correct since some command over English is required for diplomats, bureaucrats, managers and police officers alike – the functional requirements of the job necessitating so. 

Arguments galore: post-selection training can bridge the gap – but the debate ensues, to what extent a building can be erected with a fragile base? Moreover, a very pertinent point is why the agitators did not ask scrapping of the English Compulsory paper at the Mains stage? Either they were focusing on a narrow field of view or they would have done so at an opportune moment – may be after their initial demand of scrapping the ‘CSAT’ was adhered to. Further, why they did not raise the clamour in 2011 itself? Silence.

A sorry tale was that nothing substantial occurred. The final decision taken by the government and published about a week before the D-Day of Prelims [i.e. Sunday, 24th August] narrated a ‘middle path’. Since it was too late for UPSC to print fresh question papers – legally and logically so, and that the Arvind Verma Committee constituted to look into the feasibility of continuing with ‘CSAT’ did not recommend to scrap the paper; the level of the English and Maths / logical reasoning questions framed in 2104 Prelims turned out to be a fait accompli

As a last moment salvation bid, the aspirants were ‘requested’ not to attempt the questions on English Comprehension of Class X level. Those were around 8 – 9 questions based on 2 – 3 passages whose English translation was not available. Fact of the matter is that those passages were the most scoring and ‘friendly’ to the aspirants educated in the vernaculars since they are generally quite easy. Moreover, the ‘middle path’ solution created more confusion since many interpreted it to have a license not to attempt ‘any’ question on English Comprehension – such an insight emerging in the perturbed mind of the average aspirant due to the dual effect of a late official response and concomitant hullabaloo in the media.

A peep into the GS II paper as conducted by UPSC on 24 August 2014 evoked surprises. By reasonable standards, it was a time consuming and a ‘bit’ difficult paper for most aspirants. The English passages were lengthy and the level had gone up a notch higher it seemed. The maths / logical reasoning questions were not very straight forward – at least for the aspirants from the humanities background. Even the CAT/XAT aspirants found the paper challenging so as to enable them score high. In real terms then, what was the gain of the protestors and their ‘passive’ fraternity? Hindi translation remained as is, difficult English passages made their way through and maths / logical reasoning was there to stay.

It is quite a logical point of view why English, maths and reasoning should not be a part of the Prelims for CSE – when management, banking and even other UPSC exams carry out similar exercises – and in those cases, without any hindrances. Furthermore, in the pre-2011 paradigm of CSE, Maths and Logical Reasoning questions were very much a part of the GS paper. Only English passages and Decision making problems were the new agenda post 2011. Intriguingly, in 2014, even the decision making questions which do not have negative marking associated were missing from the ambit of GS II – to the consternation of many. The point of concern actually is somewhere else – a point not much highlighted either by the agitators or the journalists.

GS II contains 80 questions totalling 200 marks whereas GS I contains 100 questions for 200 – a clear case of disparity and bias. Further, with GS I encompassing a wide range of subjects, it is all the more plausible that GS I should have more weightage. And more so since in the Mains [the actual stage of the exam when determination of merit takes place as Prelims is only a screening exam], the subjects / topics of GS I are vividly dealt with. In fact, having a candidate writing Mains with scant knowledge of the topics pertaining to GS I can be a ludicrous situation and it does not augur well for bureaucracy either. A candidate who took Mains in 2013 but missed the final merit list by less than half a dozen marks, narrated this author his laughable experience of seeing an aspirant leaving the examination hall during mains just after the first bell ! This is not the scenario contemplated since it defeats the very purpose of Prelims – viz. weeding out the non-serious aspirants.

What Next?

Decisions are supposed to be taken at the appropriate level. May be an all-party meet. If solutions do not emerge this year, another spate of protests, more furious may be, just before the examination in 2015 can be in the offing. Then again, a knee-jerk solution could be proffered. That’s obviously not the emerging scenario which is expected. More weightage could be accorded to GS I or at least in relative measure, GS II could have lesser importance. Another solution could be to have a GS II in line with the compulsory English paper in Mains; i.e. make GS II of qualifying nature altogether. A minimum standard could be set for GS II and the marks won’t determine the graduation to the Mains level.

Meanwhile, it would not be a facile proposition that the aspirants need to breathe deep, study meticulously as per a well-knit plan, extricating themselves from the extraneous questions: What will be asked in the exams? Will English remain or not? Will CSAT remain? By all probability, they were doing so; it was only the handful of agitators in Delhi who need to do it I suppose. Nonetheless, it won’t be catastrophic at all if the structure of CSE-Prelims is looked into and reforms unleashed. Reforms are warranted.

Previously published in:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Brazil - Another Mourning

It was the most anticipated day in Brazil that year. On 16th July, 1950 Brazil was meeting Uruguay in the final group game of the football world cup (sometimes, this is incorrectly termed as the world cup final but there was no knock-out format in that tournament). Brazil led Uruguay by a single point coming into this match.

Thus, Uruguay had to win this match claim the world cup, where as a draw would have sufficed for Brazil.

For the match on that fateful day, 173,830 tickets were officially sold. Unooficial records indicate a crowd in excess of 200,000. This is even now the highest crowd ever recorded in the world for an event.
The match was scheduled at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Coming into this match, Brazil had been in an impeccable form. They had blown away heavyweights like Spain en route to this final group game. On the other hand, the performance of the Uruguan national could not have been more contrasting. After a draw in their first mathc, they scraped past Sweden to reach this stage.

A win for the Selecao was most definitely on the cards.

All preparations were done to celebrate a Brazilian victory. As the story goes, even the then FIFA president Mr. Jules Rimet had also prepared a post-match speech congratulating the Brazilian team.
Carnivals started days before the match on the streets of Rio de Janeiro to celebrate their national team's victory.

Local newspapers started publishing the photograph of the Brazilian national team with the caption 'These are the world champions.'

Brazilian football federation prepared winners medal for the entire Brazil squad.

On 16th July, the stadium was jampacked hours before the kick-off. The deafening noise percolated to the Uruguayan dressing room too. However, the Uruguayan captain Obdulio Varela was not intimidated.

However, the much respected Uruguyan coach Juan Lopez was quite diffident. He asked his players to sacrifice their attacking intents and defend so that they lose by a respectable margin.

Once Lopez exited the room, the legendary captain Varela stood up and said these immortal words - 'Juan is a good man, but today he is wrong..."

Varela, regarded as the best holding midfielder the world has ever seen, started imposing himself and went into the break with the match tied at 0-0.

However, just after the restart, Friaca scored to give Brazil the lead. The towering character of Obdulio Varela again came to the forefront. He just said 'It's time to win, boys.'

The rest, as the cliche goes, is history. 

Uruguay scored twice to lift the world cup in the biggest shock in football history.

The effect of this loss was unprecedented in the football-mad country of Brazil. In the stadium itself, two supporters committed suicide by jumping off the stands.

The next day was that of a day of mourning. The entire country stood standstill. The then white and blue jersey was changed to the now famous yellow one as it was believed that the earlier one was jinxed.

Moreover, "Maracanazo" became a slang in Brazil meaning the Maracana blow!

Subham Ghosh connects football with history !

Thursday, May 15, 2014

DEBATE:New wave agitational politics is the right way forward?

Indira Mukherjee
Karl Marx in his “Theses on Feuerbach” said – “Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point however, is to change it.” Now the moot question is - who will bring this change? Let’s try and answer.

Respected Director Ma’am, Judges, members of faculty and friends – a very good evening to all. I, Indira Mukherjee will be speaking for the motion.
We will answer our question for two different political regimes – one democratic, and the other non-democratic. Now democracy, as we all understand, revolves around the idea of periodic elections. Our representatives become our voice and they bring about changes. But what happens, when a simple, innocuous, harmless, vivacious, young girl is brutally raped and left to die on the streets? Now my worthy opponents, who are non-believers in agitation will answer this by falling in two categories – one group will say, that we should wait for the next elections!! And the second group members are clones of Narayan Shankar of the movie Mohabbatein who will say “I don’t like changes”.

But ladies and gentlemen, lets not forget that revolution is the indispensable midwife of social change. And a revolution, either violent or non-violent is inextricably entwined with the concept of agitation. Now some may ask – does and agitation really work? Well, appointment of the Justice Verma Committee and the 2013 criminal amendment act, says “Yes”. Again, it is not a one-off example. A simple Gandhian and few members of the civil society protested against the widening tentacles of corruption as they assembled at the Ramlila Maidan in favour of a strong Lokpal. Was it a total failure? The parliament proceedings on the Lokpal bill say “No”.

The entire concept of agitation has got a new meaning now – it is no longer restricted to sloganeering, it encompasses candle-light march, not-mere-scribbling over facebook, and intense marketing/advertising. And this phenomenon is not unique to India. Self-immolation of a brave-heart like Mohammad Bouazizi, a simple fruit seller on the streets of Tunisia, sparked off the Arab Spring. My friends from other side may say that this agitation was a failure much due to the Syrian crisis and Libyan quagmire. However, the fate of Hosni Mubarak, Zine Abedin Ben Ali, Gaddafi point to a different story.
Dictatorship, absolute monarchy, Human Rights violation, oppression, hegemony, tyranny, political corruption, economic decline, educated joblessness – you just can’t bring these issues to the forefront without a new wave agitation. In fact, not only the developing world but even the developed world believes in agitation. The biggest and recent most example in this regard is the Occupy Wall Street Movement – the reasons and results of which are well known.

So you see, Ladies and Gentlemen - a rape in India, a self-immolation in Tunisia, and a movement on economic grounds in the US, tickled the conscience of the common man and they agitated to bring about quick changes, showing that social, political and economic – all three genres of change can be brought by new wave agitation.

I ask this august gathering, tell me – why should a person not agitate? Even if we live in the kulags of Stalin, the rice fields of Polpot and hounded by Gestapo of Hitler, should we not protest? We might not get all that we aspire for via agitation but if we don’t, we get NOTHING at all.

Coming to the Indian context, let me remind you that democracy is not only about voting, it is about deliberation; democracy is not only about a party manifesto, it is about participation; democracy is not about remaining a mute spectator, it is about exercising one’s freedom of speech. And it is not only me, who believes in the potential of an agitator. Even the TIME magazine in its December 2011 issues, named “The Protestor” as the person of the year.
If we wish to see India as not only the largest but also the strongest democracy of the world, if we wish to stop an individual from becoming a mere intellectual, mummified mannequins and if we wish to prove that socio-economic-political inequity is nothing but a terminological in-exactitude, then we have to protest, we have to contest, we have to agitate because, at the end of the day Ladies and Gentlemen – New Wave agitational politics is the right way forward. Chaos, is sometimes; order.

Indira Mukherjee is an IPS probationer currently undergoing training at  SVPNPA,Hyderabad. This post is her replication of the debate held there.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Election Duty-an Experience

 India, the largest democracy of the world had the mammoth voting task in 2014. As this year began, politicians started with their strategy as never before. 2013-end witnessed Assembly election of 5 states, which was the forerunner for the election to the House of People.

As the Model Code of Conduct came into force in the month of March, gradually the Ministries in Delhi observed a lull in the work. More so in Planning Commission (PC), which has job of coordinating with all the Central Government Ministries and the different states?

Being posted in PC, I heaved a sigh of relief in March. Being bogged down with Appraisal works related to 5-6 ministries, this was my party time-I felt. I was soon going to be proved wrong.

On 12th March, around 6:30 pm, a message came-"you are directed to report to Dayal Singh College at 2:30 pm on 14.03.2014. Failure to report is a cognizable offence under the Representation of People Act. My goodness-the thing that is dreaded by a govt. servant has happened-election duty!!!!!!!!!! Although Delhi witnessed Assembly election towards the end of 2013, I was exempted. But this time it was not the case.

14th march-I went to the college along with my batch mate-E. Renbi Jami, who is also posted in PC. It seemed 50% of PC was virtually present. Some people have worked as Presiding officer for 6-8 times. Their countless anecdotes, which were all of the negative flavour, did nothing to boost our courage. The machine seemed nothing better. How to seal it, use it, clear it after conducting a mock poll seemed to be the biggest puzzle I have faced in my life. More so because I was a first timer. With a heavy heart, I returned that day with an exceptionally fat "Presiding officer's handbook", which I was supposed to read. 

The next training was fixed at the same time and place-but on Saturday, 22nd March. So election training has already started interfering in our weekends, reminding us that we are 24X7 Government o value addition happened on this particular day is what I felt.

3rd training-Sunday, 30th March at 10 am-ITI Pusa. This day seemed a better one. We were divided into numerous compartments-all belonging to the Karol bagh Constituency of New Delhi. In this training, we met our team mates. I was glad to see that the team comprised of 3 gentlemen, all of whom have been on duty before and knew the election process in and out. I was assured by them that it is a team work and there is no point of being nervous or hyper. This assurance continued till the end of the polling day and I am grateful to each of them.

 In the 4th training, this time from 9am and again on Saturday-we were provided with our kit. My team mates shared their knowledge and requested me to complete all the envelopes. So we headed to the house of the person which was the nearest and completed the job-which took about an hour.

The training also seemed to make us ready for the D-Day. The final training began at 8am. As soon as it was over, we completed all the formalities relating to the forms which could be done before hand. It was just a day before the election. So we got to meet our Sector Officer also. He seemed to be a cool person and urged us not to panic unnecessarily and promised to be by our sides throughout. His only request was that we should make it to the booth at 4:45 am the following day.

10th April-the D-DAY. I had a cab booked at 4 am, although my team mate gave me the option to stay back at his place. Getting up at 2:45 am and getting ready by 4am seemed to take half of my energy. But this was just the beginning of the day. We reached the venue on time and were soon greeted by the Sector Officer. He handed us the Electronic Voting Machine, popularly known as EVM. We made all the set-up. Now this time the directive was to conduct 50 Mock Polls in front of the polling agent. But lo-the machine was not working. Keeping in mind the sector officer's directive, we gave him a call before putting our knowledge in it. He came and cleared the machine properly. The machine was now ready. We conducted the mock poll, cleared the machine and the day started. The machine is now ready for use.

The polling started at 7am sharp. The presiding officer has no work now. So I carried on with all the formalities that are needed at the end of the day. We have already got our incentive-cash for the day's ordeal. The sector officer made occasional visit-to boost us as well as to give directives so that at the day's end the submission at the reception counter becomes easier. The time flew quickly. Soon we heard the clock striking 6 pm. No one was waiting outside to vote. We closed the door and the post-election formalities started. Putting the forms in the respective envelopes, getting sign of the polling agents-sealing the machine-it took 1.5 hours to do everything. We finally boarded the bus at 7:35 pm. 

It was a great journey. The reception counter was at NPS School, popularly known as Bengali School at Gole Market. With police escort, it took hardly 15 minutes to reach there. We seemed the lucky few to have reached so early. Immediately, took a token number to submit the machine. Around 9:30, submitted the machine, with around 20 different forms. As we left, we found people finishing their last bit, sitting on the chairs or on the ground. We felt elated to have completed our part and let the submission happen in a hassle free way. This also needs the mention of the Sector Officer, who stood throughout during the submission process.

Scores of buses from all part of South Delhi were now heading towards the counter. We saw heavy traffic from our way to CP from Gole Market. People, tired of the day's journey were now witnessing the last and most difficult part of the day. I reached home around 10:30 pm. My roommate had made food for me and was waiting for me. It seemed such a relief to see her and lie down on the bed after the long day.

Some lessons that I re-learnt:
  1. It is always better to do a home work before such mammoth task.
  2. Team work is always essential. Even more is to have better understanding among the team people. We had lunch one by one, without having any problem, thanks to this unity.
  3. Public dealing should be done always without losing temper.
  4. A little bit of flexibility doesn't cause harm.
This was an experience of a life time. I won't say that I would look forward to it, but I definitely cherished this arduous journey.
Third in the series , the anonymous author spells out the ground realities which speak of the experiences of the official on poll duty.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Democratic Upsurge in India

Rajan Agarwal

“A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
One cannot probably think of a better time to narrate the democratic upsurge in India with a firsthand experience of the same. The general elections for the 16th Lok Sabha are ongoing giving us a live demonstration of the democratic upsurge in India.
India adopted the principle of universal adult franchise when the present Constitution was implemented on 26 January, 1950, according to which if one is an Indian citizen of 18 years or above, he or she can vote. Unlike Western democracies, which granted the right to vote first to propertied men, later educated men, then all men and only after much debate and agitation to women, independent India granted all adult men and women regardless of their religion, caste, language, wealth or education the right to vote in one fell swoop. Thus started the sunrise of democracy in India which had till then been eclipsed by the imperialistic Britain.
Democracy is not new to India; it existed even during the ancient period. Ancient India is claimed to be the repository of the highest form of democracy. We find the people participating in urban councils with the power to instruct and direct the king according to their will. The multitude of ethnicities and people provided for the autonomy and self-determination of the villages, city-states, republics and constitutional kingdoms through the observance of Dharma. The villages ruled by their elected representatives and were, therefore, autonomous and self-governing administrative units having the power to manage their educational, economic social, administrative and other requirements. Their own assemblies and committees also governed townships. There were Mahajanapadas and Janapadas which represented a form of democracy.
Wikipedia defines Democracy as a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, religious, cultural, ethnic and racial equality, justice, liberty and fraternity. But democracy is not merely limited to electing one’s representative or voting but I essence it comprises of all the actives which ultimately lead to an elected representative. Democracy is about the freedom of speech through which ne puts forward one’s ideas, it is about the freedom to pen down one’s thoughts and debate about it, to form an opinion and sit back and analyze your vote for the next 5 years to start the process all over again.
Despite not having compulsory voting, the number of people voting keeps increasing the percentage remaining around 60%. Unlike the global trend which points to a steady decline in voting numbers, Indians vote in large numbers because they believe democracy brings about a change in their lives, a change for the better. Analysts have pointed out that if those at the lower end of the socio-economic hierarchy take the trouble to vote, defying threats and violence, it is because democracy is bringing change in their lives, however small these might be.
The first general election were held in 1951 and Indian National Congress emerged as the clear winners and the process continued till the 70’s when the first democratic upsurge occurred with the declaration of emergency and collapse of Congress rule. Politically, this led to a non-Congress coalition ruling India for the first time since independence. Socially, it led to the transfer of political power from the upper caste Hindus who had dominated the Congress since its inception to the intermediate peasant castes, today called the OBCs or the Other Backward Castes.
Democracy is not about a single dominant community enjoying all the privileges but about the uprising of the people in the lowest rung of the social ladder. The second democratic upsurge, which began in the late 80s, brought the Dalits into the political mainstream as an independent force. By 2007, the Dalit controlled BSP ruled India’s largest state. However, the economic and social transformation of the second democratic upsurge is far from complete, with the Dalits continuing to face marginalization and violence, mainly from the OBCs.
The democracy keeps on growing with the addition of every new voter to the electoral rolls, with the addition of cleaner candidates in the parliament and with the election moving away from caste based to issue based one. One such democratic upsurge could be the slow entry of the middle class and neo middle class into politics. These are the very people who made a conscious effort and stayed away from politics although criticizing and narrating its pitfalls every minute. But in the fag end of 2010 it appeared that the neo-middle class was ready to enter politics with its own voice. During the India Against Corruption agitation, it was noted that middle class India was now a mass and wanted to play a bigger role in the country’s politics through its media clout. The key intervention of the AAP has been to combine this new middle class clout with the numbers and anger of Delhi’s working class to produce a transparent, non-sectarian urban political coalition. Could this be the third democratic upsurge? Well people on both sides my argue in favor or against the motion but the rise of the neo-middle class is a new chapter in the book of democracy.
One cannot forget the most important institution which is responsible for conducting the elections, The Election Commision-The Election Commission (EC), which conducts the polls, goes the extra mile to ensure that voters can exercise their franchise. In some parts of the country, which are inaccessible by roads, officials trek for three to four days or ride on the backs of elephants to set up polling booths. In the western state of Gujarat, the EC has set up a polling booth for one voter - a priest in a temple in the heart of the Gir forest, which is home to the Asiatic lion. He will vote in the third phase of the election. Officials brave wild animals, scorching heat, long treks, militants and impatient voters to ensure that people can exercise their fundamental right to vote.
While India gears up for the month long 16th Lok sabha elections, democracy is getting redefined. Every election is termed as a historical one because it brings out new dimensions of the word democracy. Following are some of the key areas:
Social Media:  The educated urban youth, in the near past  had completely alienated themselves from mainstream political activism. For a long time, associating with politics or political activism was a taboo and was considered a major negative in the path of a bright young Indian's professional career growth. But things are changing fast. The signs were all there for the last two-three years when the rapid popularity of the social media was making things undergo fast metamorphosis. Twitter and Facebook became great tools for the reluctant young Indian to actively engage at least in discussions on political, economic, military as well as social issues. What started as discussions eventually became powerful groups for not just mere discussions but criticism and dissemination of opinion on several issues..
 How much the social media and active engagement of educated youth of India would make a real difference in the election outcomes, only time can say that. But no one can deny the fact that social media is here to stay and it is increasingly becoming an indispensable tool for political democracy. With India's internet penetration moving steadily upward, the reach would eventually extend to not just the educated mass of cities but also perhaps one day become a tool to connect with every Indian, be it urban or rural, be it the skilled or unskilled workforce, be it the elite or the rustic. Social Media is here to stay and is now an extended army of democracy of India from which nothing can be hidden and which is now a major pressure group to reckon with, which no one can ignore. Social media has perhaps made India's democracy more inclusive.
Citizen’s participation: The mechanisms for citizens’ participation in governance have been conceptualized in the form of citizens seeking information, citizens giving suggestions, citizens demanding better services, citizens holding service providers and other government agencies accountable and citizens actively participating in administration and decision making processes. Access to information is a fundamental requirement for ensuring citizens’ participation in governance. In this context, the Right to Information Act 2005 has laid down adequate ground-work for the same. Its functionality and utility depends on greater awareness on part of the citizens. The process of including people in decision making processes necessarily needs to start small and with direct interaction with the citizens, asking for their suggestion through surveys, referenda, public hearings, suggestion boxes etc.
Grievance redressal : An effective public grievance redressal system includes identification and analysis of grievance prone areas, setting up of a consumer protection system in the form of lok adalats and consumer forums for rapidly dealing with consumer complaints, and setting up of a well-functioning consumer feedback system. These mechanisms must necessarily be inclusive of marginalised sections of the society- women, physically challenged, lower castes, remotely located and such like. The Citizen's Charter and Grievance Redressal Bill 2011 also known as The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 is a manifestation of it.
Civil Society:  India is the largest democracy in the world. But without its lively NGO scene, many ills in society would continue unchallenged. Civil society derives its strength from the Gandhian tradition of volunteerism, but today, it expresses itself in many different forms of activism. Recently, Anna Hazare – a modern Gandhian and his team struggled hard to pressurize the union government to pass a strong Jan Lokpal Bill so that bureaucracy, courts and ministry including Prime Minister could be brought within the purview of such a strong law to check corruption in India. it was successful to large extent when the The Lokpal Act,2013 was made.
Public Delivery System: “Democracy eventually gives everyone a promise and a hope to be included in citizen entitlements. Within the international community, democracy and governance are widely advocated as intrinsically desirable and important goals. The challenge for democracies is, therefore, not simply to strengthen downward electoral accountability so that politicians have an incentive to pay attention to citizen needs.  The need for democracy and development and the challenge of developing societies like India is to make democratic governance work in terms of good public delivery systems which truly impact the lives of citizens.” -Najeeb Jung, current Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. Effective public service delivery implies involvement of citizens at all stages of a programme, that is, planning, implementation and monitoring.
Placing citizens at the centre of administrative and decision making processes of the government is the hallmark of a living and thriving democracy. The great churning process has begun once more and after several round we have made a remarkable progress but lot is left to be done. There might be a democratic upsurge in India but several reforms still await to see the light of the day. The Supreme Court struck down Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which protects convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification if they appeal before a higher court within three months, on the ground of pendency of appeal. This was indeed a landmark judgement but the final call lies with the voters who exercise their right to flush out the criminal background candidates, they have even been bestowed the NOTA option i.e. to reject all the candidates incase none appears a clean candidate. The media has never been so lively before bringing out the intricacies of candidates, parties, manifestos and all involved in the election. But ultimately it’s the voter whose level of literacy and understanding of the candidate he votes for which will decide the future of Indian democracy and not the ‘tainted neta’ or the ‘mafia’ lord or the ‘empty dream weaver’. 

Rajan Agarwal is a civil service aspirant. This essay is a replica of the  entry for the essay competition at securing 4th position.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

India of my Dreams

Rajan Agarwal
‘Mera Bharat Mahan
’, we so often hear people say more in a sarcastic tone than as a praiseworthy gesture, although deep within everyone dreams of it becoming true. The reality is that more than 60% people of India are not developing with India. People are unemployed, poor and dying with hunger. And, such conditions are increasing corruption, terrorism and giving the birth to dirty politics. We need an India which we see in our dreams. Dreams, defined by Wikipedia as, a series of thoughts, images, sensation occurring in our mid during sleep, do they hold significance? Indeed if we were to believe the words of our former president Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam ,”Dreams are not those which comes while you are sleeping, but dreams are those when you don’t sleep before fulfilling them.” So dreams indeed become reality if we work towards it dedicatedly. It is in many ways necessary for a country like India to be insane and dream as it is a bigger crime not to dream than to dare to dream. I dream of such India, when people coming in India say, ’Tumhara Bharat Mahan’. Every person dreams of India in his/her own beneficial way:
I as a poor sick person dream of India where Healthcare facilities are within the reach of the poorest of the poor, not because of any subsidy but because of my being empowered enough to claim it. I wish to reside in a country where people can afford to get sick. Quality healthcare is available to every section of society.
I as a farmer dream of Bharat as a place where opportunities are not sold but grabbed to rise up the ladder. A place where grains are not allowed to rot in the open rather market exists for  selling them in the open. I don’t wish to claim subsidies and be looked down upon rather empowered to buy my requirements through my own earnings.
I as a citizen stung by the needle of corruption would dream of India as a minimal corrupt country where I have a voice to raise. I feel corruption has  lead to the downfall of my country’s GDP from a double digit growth figure to the below 5 status.
I as a business oriented person dream of India with which U.S. competes, not just in terms of development but ‘sustainable’ development, a concept wherein we take care for our future generations. India where economic development reaches the level of Rupees 1=1$. The economy has the potential to reach this height if everyone works towards it.
I as Indian researcher dream of India as knowledge hub where its scientists, engineers doctors research and work in collaboration with people from other country. A situation where the concept of brain drain is reversed, and live in a place where the number of renowned institutes(IITs, IIMs, ISRO etc.) are sufficient in number to encourage healthy competition without arbitrary reservation. Reservations exist, but not for a particular caste or community but for the one deserving it on merit.
I as Indian athlete, dream of the establishment of world class infrastructure to train myself, funds to keep the infrastructure in place and change in looking perspective to sports other than cricket. I dream of getting the same reception on winning an Olympic medal as one gets for winning a cricket world cup. I as a hockey player want to relieve the golden history and restore the importance given to national sports. A country where talent is brought up the ladder from the least accessible corner of my India and given world class training. 
I as a literate person dream of 100% literate India, literacy of not  just being able to put a signature but the one which enables a neo-literate to access his required needs and claim his wants, one which prevents you from getting duped by literate people. A country where no one puts his/her thumbs on a paper but proudly signs after understanding and verifying its contents.
I as a rural India resident dream of having a bank branch in every village with all having access to it. An India where money lenders don’t find enough people to cheat because of the number of banking options available with people.
I as Indian Foreign Service officer dream of my India as a country which commands respect in the world forum not only because of its peace endeavours but also because of its power to tackle the strongest of the nations and its rate of development.
I as a resident of Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh dream of India where my border issue has been successfully resolved once and for all, thereby ending years of aggression, suffering, terrorism and conflict.
I as a resident of Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand Andhra Pradesh Maoist infected areas dream of my India where the need to drift to Maoist activities is over. Those gone deep into the maze have returned and an environment of peace and mutual trust has developed.
I as a part of Army, Navy, Air Force, dream of India having well-equipped forces with access to latest weapons and technology that too developed indigenously by DRDO and ISRO.
I as a scientist at ISRO dream of India launching space missions, like Mars mission launched recently, every year on our own without thinking of the paucity of funds.
I as an environmentalist dream of India as a country where environment safe guards are adhered to and most of the flora and fauna come out of the endangered and threatened categories and rights of Tribal people to the forest and forest products are recognized and granted. I dream of India as a country greener than ever before where every person plants and cares for a minimum of 10 to 20 trees in his life time, where wild life is safe from poachers, where Man lives in harmony with Nature,
I as the finance minister of India dream of the country in a situation when there is no need to import ay petroleum products rather vehicles run on 'Gobar gas' produced all around the country at a very low cost and which emits little or no polluting gases. I dream of solar fixation of vast stretches of waste and barren land to produce the maximum potential of solar energy which can electrify the farthest and the distant village in India and also take care of the climbing fiscal deficit. I dream of India where export if not exceeds definitely equals import.
I as traveller and IT professional dream of India as a country 100% connected not only by railways, airways, roadways but also by internet, mobile, bank. The railways, airways, roadways might connect you physically but the internet mobile and bank will connect you permanently.
I as a cleanliness administering citizen dreams of India as a clean country in which I am ready to play my role a supportive citizen.
‘Justice delayed is Justice denied’ I as a law abiding citizen dream of India where Justice is meted out to each and everyone who seeks it within  a fixed time- period and no case be dragged o for more than 6 months, if need be more courts be set up and all should function like the fast track courts.
I as a rural migrant, dream of India where the rural and urban standard of living achieves a common platform. Our lifestyles may differ but both sides are able to access all the facilities. People like me will be forced to migrate to the urban side. 70% of our population lives in rural areas.  Rural unemployment is a massive problem.  This is resulting in exodus to the cities, which our cities are not able to absorb properly.  For those who stay in rural India, their potential is underutilized leading to social problems.  We need to develop new, progressive models for rejuvenating rural India.  We should not do this through dole oriented schemes like NREGA that breed inefficiencies and complacency.  We have to do this by rejuvenating agriculture, so that we are able to raise its productivity and economic opportunity. 
I as a regular voter dream of my India where close to 100% voting takes place and everyone expect for those having serious ailments come out and raise the bar for democracy. I as a voter also dream of India where candidates don’t dole out bribes to the voters for immediate gains and vanish after that rather understand grass root level issues and deal with them.
I as a sweeper dream of my India where my work will be respected and not looked down upon because I fend for myself and not beg from anyone.
I as a prisoner dream of my India where I am not only stuffed in jail with a bleak future but where people like me get transformed into law abiding citizens having a skill set which ensures me and my jail mates a standard source of income.
I as a tsunami or a natural calamity affected person dream of an India having the latest technology in terms of warning systems so that I will not have to become homeless once again. I dream of  country where aid reaches the person in need before he clamours for it, aid not in terms of cash but in terms of support to rebuild himself/herself.
I as student who struggled to get myself educated dreams of India where free education is provided to all the deserving candidates instead to subsidies and reservations so that I become educated enough to fend for myself and my family.
I as a woman of India dream of my country as a place where I can raise my voice and it is heard, where justice is meted out for the minutest crime against me, where I am empowered to take decisions in my favor, where I am no longer looked down upon as an entity to be overpowered but as a person stronger than of the opposite sex.
I as a news follower dream of India where media houses have more positive news to show rather than the current stuff they show repeatedly.
Finally I as a fellow dream that the above dreams of the citizens of India for various backgrounds become a reality. It is not for the fact that I have a dream hidden within these dreams but because when several individual dreams are fulfilled, the spirit of unity ensures that everyone lives a single collective dream towards which they start working whole heartedly. I don’t dream of people asking for more subsidies or reservation because these are selfish dreams, I dream of people asking for more opportunities and chances to prove their worth.
I would like to quote Mahatma Gandhiji in this regard,” I shall work for an India, in which the poorest shall feel it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice; an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people; an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the curse of the intoxicating drinks and drugs. Women will enjoy the same rights as men. Since we shall not be at peace with all the rest of the world, exploiting, nor being exploited, we should have the smallest army imaginable. This is the India of my dreams….I shall be satisfied with nothing less.”
India of my dreams is not entirely of my dreams alone because I am not its only resident, within India of my dream lies the India of everyone’s dream which is not perfect neither 100% problem free but an India which strives towards being perfect, an India where people think of solutions before seeing the problem itself, an India where dreams are turned into reality. I dream of a shining India, a vibrant democracy and a secular nation taking centre-stage in the comity of nations. I dream to see ‘INDIA  DREAMS’
Rajan Agarwal is a civil service aspirant. This essay is a replica of the short-listed entry for the essay competition at