Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Women's Bill: Quality Vs Equality

Yesterday Indian parliament has passed a bill enabling 30% reservation for women in the national parliament and state legislators, with overwhelming majority. My take on this issue is straightforward, do we need to jeopardize quality for the sake of equality?

I always consider that academic institutions, medical firms, governments and business have their main obligation to promote quality, not equality.Here in India, we have quotas for nearly everything; religion, caste, financial status and so on, a strategy promoted by corrupt politicians in an attempt to fish votes and ruining the quality. Many bright students lose out to getting admissions in good universities because of reservations, many bright candidates do not get jobs because of reservations.. it is just getting sick day by day.

We Indians call ours the largest democracy in the world. I wonder how you can call it democracy and yet dictate the kinds of people who should get elected? In a democracy, what's the point of a quota for gender, or religion, or race? It gives someone an unfair leg up when votes count the most. Unfortunately like a beauty queen contest, democracy and popular vote do not always settle on the most qualified people - and prejudice can keep women from representation. I don't understand why people or legislative members do not realize that by increasing this segregation of the society they are promoting inequality and not equality that it is supposed to promote. One caste gets reservation, the other one says it's neglected and starts hate mongering. This has been going on for too long now, and not going to stop anytime soon either. It will not be long before there will be a billion and a half quotas of reservation in India, everyone claiming that they are disadvantaged because they have been neglected in the other quota.

Let's not forget the instance that Lalu Yadav, a stringent opponent of the bill and one of the most corrupt politicians in India, made his illiterate wife Rabri Devi, Chief Minister of the state Bihar while he was incarcerated. Sonia Gandhi, secretary of the ruling congress party selected Ms. Pratibha Patel for the post of Indian President, a congress party member and otherwise unknown person, for the sake that she can easily be lured into a sycophant of the party-how she has always been. I foresee that the bill makes absolutely no difference in empowering the women; it will, their masters instead; corrupt politicians who drive India into a bureaucratic mess.

This is a ridiculous law and should be consigned to the scrap heap. You don't achieve democracy or equality with quotas.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Physiotherapy, "Foot reflexology" and Ayurveda: Lots of Juju but Mostly Chicanery

 Today New York Times published an interesting note on how increasing evidences argue that physical therapies do not work and more to it, it can actually aggravate injuries; such as "taping an ankle to immobilize it". Massages, including that uses ice and heat, ultrasound etc., are deemed utterly as waste of time and money by the evidence-based modern medicine. One of the largest study so far conducted for assessing efficacy of physiotherapy-as it also known as, researchers concluded that there are no convincing evidences that support this form of topical, alternative therapy relieves common heel pain.

Known as marma-therapy, physical therapy are an integral part of Ayurveda and that are, like any forms of massages in general and elsewhere, absurdly expensive. Here in India, Ayurveda is highly subsidized business with some 100 government ayurvedic medical colleges around India; every municipalities having one government Ayurvedic hospital. In the light of increasing evidences that rubbishes its very practice, what we need is a critical analysis, do we really need this kind of alternative therapy a.k.a., state-sponsored charlatans?

Instead of encouraging the practice of Ayurveda-something totally unfounded by modern science, Indian government should channel billions of dollars worth spending to something more worth spending, say on family planning or fighting child malnutrition. Sure, we will loose few millions earned from Ayurveda-oriented tourism, but given its big picture-a big white elephant in modern, economically aspiring India, banning Ayurveda, like any pseudoscience for that matter, makes perfect sense to me.

And on a related note, last time when I was at Indira Gandhi International Airport at New Delhi I find it real funny seeing these electric leg massage installations. They have a fancy name for those little machines, "foot reflexology". Right, these are free for passengers and definitely misconstrue them have an image of how an "ultra modern" country India is...oh come on, why fooling them? Everyone knows ours is a country with more than half a billion utterly destitute citizens, child mortality rates some of the highest in the world, poorer than around 150 countries in the word...why then shameless show-ff to conceal rotting, cancerous internal problems-for sure are fueled by corrupt politicians and illiteracy? And why would India burn carbon for this absolutely insane leg spa, and that too for the benefit of transit passengers-a major portion of them are foreigners whom we don't tax? Let me make this point clearer; not these fancy electric foot-massage machines or pseudoscience named Ayurveda we need, but development at grass-root; education and eradication of poverty has to be our priority number one; let's not imitate CDG (I haven't seen any free foot massage machines there anyway), but lets follow footsteps of Costa Rica, world's most content country!

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Freedom of expression

How much of it we really need?

Kurt Westergaard, the Danish illustrator widely regarded (in West at least) as a defender of free expression, is again in news; some religious fundamentalists have managed to broke into his heavily fortified house. For centuries, critics have been expressing their thoughts freely on the matters concerning arts in general. People start making political caricatures even in Russia-a country where very life is seemingly under the control of beaurocracy. Yet religion remains something so sensitive to millions of dogmatic followers.What makes it immune to any forms of criticism and scrutiny?

Years of living in India-a country that boasts as secular with national holidays reserved for almost all religions in earth (Christianity, Hinduism, Islamism, Sikh, Buddism, Parsi...and so on), and in Japan where majority have no religious affiliations and has no national holidays reserved for religious holy-days; I honestly believe that religion is the stupidest invention mankind has ever made and it is for the bunch of ignorant idiots who cant think with integrity. Would you need the fallacy of i-am-right-others-are-wrong sorta preaching to denigrate the society morally? Let me quote from the founders of two major religions of our time and you will know what is meant:

Jesus Christ, talking to Jews about their God, in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” This is one of several chapters in the Christian Bible that can give a scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. The first part of John 8, the story of “whoever is without sin cast the first stone”, was not in the original version, but was added centuries later. The original John 8 is a debate between Jesus and some Jews. In brief, Jesus calls the Jews who disbelieve him sons of the Devil, the Jews try to stone him, and Jesus runs away and hides.

Muhammad, quoted in Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 1 Book 8 Hadith 427: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” This quote is attributed to Muhammad on his death-bed as a warning to Muslims not to copy this practice of the Jews and Christians. It is one of several passages in the Koran and in Hadith that can give a scriptural foundation to Islamic anti-Semitism, including the assertion in Sura 5:60 that Allah cursed Jews and turned some of them into apes and swine.

Just consider how many murders, riots and terror bouts we can avoid just by turning into irreligious? How efficiently, industriously and creatively we can harness our mental and physical resources (yeah, go to Japan and see how efficient a society they really are) if there were no such thing called religion? Religions have no ears to listen to, no room for self improvement and that is their biggest problem.

I discovered it way back in 2004 that a religious faith, with a name having a religious tag is the first thing I should trash if my purpose of living is to be a good individual at the same time, have a deep sense of humility. Happily irreligious, I am a profound libertarian and I'll always be.