Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Retaining the readers...

The Article by Mr K. Narayanan “The Challenges in retaining the readers” (The Hindu, Dated 26.05.2008) was a thought provoking one. I would just like to add a comment on the last 5-6 lines of the article, where preventing media to publish a politically destabilizing thing is talked about. Instead, I would try to answer his question that who will decide what will be “destabilizing”.

In a country like India where we have a uniquely diversified society, viz hundreds of different castes & sub-castes, different languages, so many political parties, largely varying socio-economic status of the citizens etc, it is extremely important that every attempt should be made to strengthen this matchless unity in diversity. Any such action by anyone (be it an individual, a group, press or who so ever) must be viewed seriously unlawful, which negatively provokes people & destabilize the peace & calmness of environment of the state by adding fuel to the fire.

A recent controversy, as an example, will make my view more clear. A Law examination question paper read about the relationships of some imaginary characters – the names of whom were that of the Hindu Gods. The known relationships between the Hindu Gods were not matching exactly to as that given in the question. This provoked some examinees during the examination, but they were well controlled by the examiners.

This news was widely publicized by some of the TV News channels & the local newspapers. Such was the extent of importance given to this trivial issue, that the media did not hesitate calling this as the “Breaking News” (some TV News channels) & the front-page top-most news in local dailies.

The result was most obvious. It aroused the orthodox Hindu groups. There were unnecessary protests & disturbances. The paper setter (who was Hindu as well) faced the derogatory situations. He was assaulted – both physically & mentally.

This was a grossly irresponsible behavior played by the media. So as an answer to Mr Narayanan’s question that who will decide what is “destabilizing”, I can pose a question that do we really need written laws, procedures & definitions to understand that such an action by media was totally un-called-for? What is the role of Editors & the Senior Management of the press if such an action can’t be checked?

In such instances, some of the news channels & news papers don’t actually think of their moral responsibility, but just about the market forces which will help the sale of their air time of the newspaper.

Any genuine citizen of this country will not at all appreciate this, but would surely cry loud on how the “Freedom of Press” is misinterpreted & misused by the news channels & news papers for their own benefit. Although I (the citizen of this country) salute the responsible journalism but I just have three words to say to the other worst part of this coin “Shame on You” !!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tobacco, Smoking & Drinking

Excerpts from an Article (The Hindu, Dated 11.05.2008) Dr Ambumani Ramadoss, Health Minister, GoI

The figures givent in the article are really an eye opener. The way in which it was (mis) interpreted by the Media & Bollywood, its really a shame on their part. This will automatically be clear to you after going through these facts & figures once.

  • 40 % of the health problems in India are due to the use of tobacco in its various forms. Tobacco and alcohol together make a perfect recipe for early death.
  • Over a million deaths in India occur due to tobacco use.
  • According to World Health Organization (WHO) study, 15 % of school children in India use tobacco.
  • Experts say smoking scenes in movie are more effective than direct forms of tobacco advertisements.
  • 52 % of youngsters start smoking after being influenced by movies.
  • India produces the largest number of movies in the world (900 in 2001).
  • In the 1950s, 30 % of films had smoking scenes with the percentage touching 89 in 2004.
    In 1950s only villain or ‘bad guys’ smoked on screen. Now, 76 % of the smoking scenes are by heroes and lead characters.
  • Godfrey Philips Red and White Bravery Awards are given to 10 people for saving 10 lives but tobacco company causes the death of three million people worldwide annually.
  • In the past 15 years alcohol production has increased from 900 million litres to 2.3 billion litres, making India the largest consumer of alcohol in the Southeast Asian region. India alone consumes 65 % of the region’s total production.
  • The average drinking age has come down from 28 years to 19 years. Experts predict that it will further come down further to 15 years in the next 5-7 years.
  • India’s strength is its 600 million people below the age of 30.
  • 2/3 rd of India’s death are linked to tobacco, alcohol and junk food.
  • 1/3 rd of road accidents are alcohol related.
  • Rajnikant’s two latest movies are smoke free and both were the biggest hits in the history of India film industry.
  • A can of Pepsi/Coco-cola contains 5-7 spoonfuls of sugar and a packet of chips contains 500 calories.
  • WHO has also warned that India is moving from a pattern of communicable disease to non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardio-vascular ailments, and mental health disorders.
  • The India Cinematography Act, 1952 prohibits glamorizing smoking in movies.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

MSP-2008: A Feedback

A tale of my Experiences with ORSI, Ahmedabad Chapter

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no intentions to try suing anyone, neither I am charging or complaining against anyone to anybody. This is just my experience, my feelings that I wanted to share with my friends, colleagues, seniors, professors, as well as (may be) to the organizers. If somebody tries to post-mortem my write-up, you may get some little changes here & there. I fully agree to it. This is because I haven’t written any legal document, but only my heart.
Operation Research Society of India, Ahmedabad Chapter arranged a conference on Management Science & Practices (MSP) 2008. The conference was set at the mighty IIM Ahmedabad during 22-24th March, 2008.

Here I will be talking least on the posed mights & valors of the ORSI, Ahmedabad; but would surely like to highlight some really stubborn, monarchial & demoralizing experiences I had with the organizers. In short, my aim here is to just criticize the organization of conference, as if there were no positives, at least I believe that!

I am a 2nd year PhD Scholar at IME Department, IIT Kanpur. How am I linked to MSP-2008? Actually not directly; my wife got a paper selected at the conference & I just accompanied her (‘Escort’ her, as someone said !!!) to MSP-2008. So most often here, I may use ‘we’ for a ‘she’ when talking about the conference, which I leave to the readers to understand preferably. But what I am going to do here, is against her wish & hence she is only the ‘object’ I am using to describe my own personal feelings against MSP-2008.

I may also be using names of some of the persons (which remains indispensable actually), ’coz I believe that I am living in a democracy where I have been conferred upon by the Constitution of India in its Part-III, to have a “Right to Freedom of Expression”.

Even when we were submitting the paper for review, a friend warned us against this conference. Actually he attended MSP-2007 & had a similar hard feelings & upsetting experiences. MSP-2007 was arranged at IIT Madras, by the same organizers. But we took his words lightly & suffered throughout our association with this conference.

Without talking any more, I would directly come to the point of crapping MSP-2008.
  • Since long back, the dates of this conference were set to be during 28-30 March 2008. But just about a month prior to the conference schedule, it was preponed to be held during 22-24 March 2008. The reason was stated that IIM-A has its Convocation scheduled during that time. This was declared to be a National Conference, but unfortunately nothing was thought about the persons who are going to attend the conference from farthest places in the country. We are living at Kanpur & definitely faced problems in rescheduling our journey.
    a. Initially we planned to & fro journey via Delhi from a Spice Jet flight (Ahmedabad-Delhi) & Delhi-Kanpur on rail. This is not because I am a rich man, but there was some good offers on the Spice Jet Airlines, due to which we got the tickets @ just Rs 2000/- per head. Rescheduling charges for Spice Jet, per head per journey, @ Rs 750/- amounts to Rs 3000/-.
    b. Even when we were ready for rescheduling (“Marta kya na karta” as it is said in Hindi for “No Option” !!), there was no availability in the flight for a journey from Delhi-Ahmedabad on the new dates. So go for a rail journey between Delhi-Ahmedabad. Simple is it not??
    c. No availability from Kanpur-Ahmedabad in Sleeper, neither in III-AC or II-AC. Only option was to get reservation in Tatkal, that too we could manage an availability in II-AC only. So let’s go for it !!
    God knows what motivated them to keep a conference on the day of Holi; 22nd March 2008 was Holi - ‘Dhulandhi’!!! Travelling during holi time, I need not to say much about this.
  • Shared dormitory accomodation was arranged by the organizers for the delegates. But as I was also accompanying my wife, we requested our PhD supervisor (who is an alumni of IIM Ahmedabad & friendly associated with the organizers) to recommend us so that I can also get an accomodation at IIM-A. He did the kind favour to us by recommending. We got a positive response from the organizers as: "family accommodation can be arranged in IIM A campus as an exception. It costs Rs. 1000/- per day which has to be incurred by you. Please let me know if this is alright with you. We shall be glad to assist you."
    We were indeed glad & happy to note this, and accepted the offer by sending a DD of Rs 2000/- to them, for a two nights' stay.
    Just on the day we were starting for the conference from Kanpur (20th March ‘08), we got a call from the organizer at 9:00 AM in the morning, stating "we are sorry; by mistake we told you the cost to be Rs 1000/-, actually it's Rs 2500/- per day. If you still want it, I can book it for you, but I don’t recommend you to do so"...!! We obviously refused.

    Do I need to write here that in what mental condition I must be going through at that moment, knowing that I have planned to travel during 'Holi' with my wife, in such a mis-managed environment..!!
    I immediately started googling to search for hotels near IIM-A. After making a call to atleast 10-12 hotels, we could get a room booked at a hotel near IIM-A for Rs 1500/- per day.
  • As in any conference, here too, a preferred presentation schedule was asked from the delegates by the organizers. Again & again, atleast 4 times we requested them (I have all the proofs) to schedule our presentation preferably on 23rd or if that’s not possible, on 24th March ’08; with special emphasis all the time to avoid scheduling our presentation on 22nd, that being Holi. Every time we were assured that our preference would be taken care of during scheduling.
    But to the utter surprise, on 19th March when schedule was released, our presentation was scheduled to be the first presentation of the conference on 22nd March ’08 (Holi) at 3:30 PM….!!
    We mailed the organizer again as: "After repeatedly telling my preference to be 23rd March, most humbly I ask you to please justifiably tell me the reason why my presentation is scheduled on 22nd? I hoped that the organizers would appreciate that as I am living outside IIM campus, it would be difficult for me to reach IIM on the day of Holi, when there will possibly be no transportation facilities available in the city..!!".

    To the reply of this, we got the presentation to be rescheduled on 23rd March '08, at 8:30 AM.
  • Here comes actually the worst part of my experience. Had this not happened, I would have been the last person to write all this here.
    Wife's presentation was told to be 3rd/4th in sequence on 23rd March in the slot 08:30-10:00 AM. We planned to go for a Ahmedabad city tour after the presentation. Both of us went inside the presentation room when 2nd presentation was going on. I took the seat next to my wife.

    Within just 2-3 minutes, I saw the lady (with whom we transacted all through, Ms Vasudh Tummala) came inside & talked to a boy sitting at last chair. May be, he was one of the volunteers.

    The boy came to me & said: "Excuse me...You are accompanying your wife..??"
    I said "Yes.."
    Boy: "No, you can't sit here. You have to wait outside. You please come out". I noted that he too was not feeling nice to say that. "You can talk to Ms Vasudha Tummala outside", he said.

    Myself & my wife, both were really shocked to this. She started mumbling & muttering. I relaxed her & asked to concentrate on her presentation (which was to start in 10 min or so..). I came out to talk to Ms Vasudha.

    As I came out, she again uttered the same words: "No you can't sit inside. Please wait here".
    I told her gently: "Ma'am, I am not at all interested in attending the conference, neither am I disturbing any one inside. I am there just to accompany & encourage my wife for her presentation."
    Lady: "No. To be inside you need to register, fill & sign the forms."
    Me: "Ma'am, I am not only her husband but also a PhD student at IITK. Moreover, it's just a matter of 15-20 mins."
    Lady: "Sorry, I can't help. You are unnecessarily arguing."
    Me: "Ok then... if it's so, please give me the form, I'll fill & sign it."

    She tried to search for the 'form' in her mess of papers for another 2-3 minutes, but without success.

    Lady: "See I am not getting the form presently. You can rather pay me Rs 2000/-, which is registration fees & then attend the conference."

    I was highly embarrassed & heavily shocked by seeing her attitude.

    I decided to take the seat outside & didn't wanted to argue with the arrogance & inclemency of the lady.

    As she saw me sitting outside, she said: "This is what at most we can do for you. We can allow you to roam inside our campus, accompanying your wife & to take a seat here outside."

    I said: "So kind of you, Ma'am. I am deeply obliged."

    I didn't knew what expression I should have at that moment there: To laugh at the foolishness displayed by the lady, or to feel embarrassed, or to be disappointed for missing my wife's presentation...!!! I just started to pen this tale.
    Please take back your draft (Rs 2000/-, which we sent for accommodation). I requested the lady to give us a cheque/cash, because it would be difficult for us to get the draft cancelled. She said: "No no, that's not possible. We are doing whatever instructions we have got..!!". To this I could not resist expressing my paining heart, of course bit “angrily”...!! She just kept a mum.
  • Conference Proceedings of MSP-2007 was released in MSP-2008. It’s expected that MSP-2008 proceedings would be released much say, 6 months from now...!!! We will not take 1 year this time, as was told by Ms Vasudha.
    Its a normal practice all over, that Conference Proceedings are given to the participants, right there, during the conference.
    After 2 round of review, papers were selected for presentation at the conference. Again the papers presented at the conference will be peer-reviewed & only some selected papers will appear in Conference Proceedings...!!!
  • Certificate of Participation: She was just neglecting us, when we asked for it. Asked to wait till the running session gets over (another half-an-hour). After session got over, we asked her again, she asked to wait for half-an-hour more. About after one-and-half hour, at about 1:30 PM we got the certificate. All our plans & mood of Ahmedabad tour went in vain. We took lunch at a hotel outside & came back to our room to take some rest.

    I would like to particularly mention here about one more conference, which we attended shortly before this conference, IEEE-IEEM 2007. The IEEE arranged this conference at Singapore during Nov-Dec 2007; and we were lucky to be associated with this conference, as (again) my wife got her paper selected there.

    So I compared MSP-2008 keeping the benchmark of IEEE-IEEM 2007 in mind. I don’t know if this is a correct approach or not, but at least this is a human tendency to compare anything with his past experiences on a similar occasion.

  • The IEEE conference, IEEM 2007, which we attended at Singapore was just opposite to this.
  • They declared in the beginning itself, that we will not be able to arrange accommodation for the delegates. Please do not make any request for the same.
  • They mailed again & again to say that we encourage you to bring your spouse/a friend of yours to the conference. All foods during the conference will be arranged by us, for you as well as your spouse/friend, free of cost.
  • Conference schedule was given much prior to the conference, and it was as per our preference given. Still they asked to convey the changes required, if any, by so & so date.
    Certificate of Participation was ready to be given. We just went to the counter & received one.
  • Fill in a feedback form, give it at a counter. They gave some beautiful small show pieces as gifts, with a smile.
  • Conference Proceedings, Full Paper in a CD etc were all there in the Conference kit given, along with some beautiful gifts like show piece, key-ring etc.
  • Overall their treatment was extremely friendly & we have so many happy memories from IEEE Singapore.

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no intentions to try suing anyone, neither I am charging or complaining against anyone to anybody. This is just my experience, my feelings that I wanted to share with my friends, colleagues, seniors, professors, as well as (may be) to the organizers. If somebody tries to post-mortem my write-up, you may get some little changes here & there. I fully agree to it. This is because I haven’t written any legal document, but only my heart.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Removal of Honey Beehives at IIT K



There are a large number of honey beehives in GH-I, Hall-I, Hall-II,Hall-III, Hall-IV, Hall-V, Hall-VII, Hall-VIII, FB, H.No.-386,3086 H.No.-603, 647 CE, NL-II, LHC, Central Library, Auditorium, etc. and it has become a matter of concern. The beehives in the said buildings shall be removed during the period from 03.05.08 to 17.05.08. The removal shall be undertaken in the time slot of 7.30 PM to 11.30 PM. The campus community is advised to be careful in moving around during the notifiedperiod.

To: All mailing List


My Views on the above mail...

Any one who has been to IIT K can easily appriciate the fact that the areas mentioned in this mail covers almost 70-80% of the areas which are mostly occupied & has significant traffic during all times.

The message is that between 3rd May to 17th May, removal of beehives will take place during evening time 07:30-1130 PM.So there will definitely be unrest among the honey bees, and hence who-so-ever comes infront of them will surely get hurt. There are past incidences where people have suffered during this process.

Such a general mail is nothing but just a formality. They have just completed a custom of informing the public. But such a general mail is of no use at all.

During these 15 days, moving in a large area in busiest 4 hrs at IIT K is risky. Its not possible that people will stop moving in all these areas for 15 days, during the evening time.If there will be any accident due to this process, they will just stretch thier hands out, saying that we informed public. But is such an information of any use to anyone?

The affected person will recall about the notice only after an accident will take place with him, and will then find that I cant do any thing about this, because Authorities already informed "All" about this.

But do you really think that Authorities actually behaved responsibly by circulating such an absurd, ridiculous & meaningless notice..??

So, what should be done....??

First of all, fix up a schedule with the workers, according to their availability & other logistics. Allot them one of these areas on one specific time; in this way cover all of the affected areas. Then tell the finally fixed schedule to the general public.

In this way we will be better informed, say, today is 5th May, as per schedule beehive removal will be at Auditorium from 8:30 PM. So lets avoid moving there at that time.

The idea of informing to the public should be genuine, to avoid any mis-hap; rather than to just complete a formality which will not actually avoid any accident, but only help authorities to escape out being held responsible for the same.

You have played safe by circulating this mail, Sir; but let the people of IIT K also live safe by behaving a little more responsible.