Friday, September 7, 2007

'Every action has an equal and opposite reaction'

The physical universe is governed by laws, not law of the land or state, but by scientific laws that are rational and logical. These laws were brought into existence after extensive study and substantial proof to support them. And hence we have accepted them. In physics when a single particle disobeys a law it's subjected to intense study, and the law maybe rewritten, in nature it leads to a new avenue of evolution. If our law, which dictates our behavior, is broken we are punished.

We are all human and we are prone to error. Let’s face it, the laws of physics too are written by us and we are infinitely more complicated than a single particle. We each react to the same situation in different ways, to make laws that are applicable to all of us is therefore more complicated. The law does exist despite all its flaws. But is imprisonment the solution? President Roosevelt of America once said “Speak softly, but carry a big stick”, he was referring in many ways to human nature itself. Punishment has always been a part of how we maintain order in our society. Law makers, make laws to make our lives safer. Today we live in a world where we cohabit with terrorists, arousing mere suspicion is a crime that warrants punishment. Doctor Haneef’s case is the latest where anti-terror laws were used with little to show for our safety.

Crime, the world over has increased ten-fold. One could argue that with better technology it is harder for criminals to escape the law. Politicians the world over are “getting tough” on crime. Harsher sentences are being handed out, often for small offenses. Yet crime rates are rising, this shows the system is not working. Instead our jails are filling up, resources could be dedicated to progress - provide the offenders with shelter, food and clothing. The problem with the system as I see it is that it is a reactive system. A crime is committed, society is outraged, and it reacts by showing the criminal its wrath. Who is a criminal? Was he/she not a part of society at one point, before they broke the law? The time to be proactive is now. Can we prevent crime, without carrying a big stick over our heads? Maybe not, that would be a bit idealistic, maybe a bit intrusive. So what do we do? The answer isn't easy; education plays a big part, perceptions another. The latter calls for us to change the way we look at criminals. Criminals shouldn't be considered misfits, or as unwanted elements as they are. In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov the protagonist deals with his demons and finally confesses to his crime. His ordeal is punishment enough. Again maybe this seems a bit idealistic to believe that one's conscious is punishment enough. There are cold blooded mass murderers out there who show no sign of remorse. This needs more study, what goes through their minds, is it genes or their surroundings, the circumstances that they have been in, which creates them.

Handing out life sentences, capitals punishments or sentencing them to jail is not the solution. Justice delayed is justice denied. Let us take the case of Sanjay Dutt, his verdict was given after 14 years of the crime being committed. For 14 years, he has made a notable contribution to the society, and has been A role model to many. Munna Bhai, Lage raho! Is it fair then to sentence him to five years of prison, now? The law does not consider what is fair, just what is right; a new system should be empathetic. Under trials in this country face nearly endless amounts of time in jail, simply wasting away, awaiting a preliminary hearing. This must stop, we need to quickly review our jails, statistics on the number of under trails in this country are sketchy at best. There are no checks and balances in place to ensure that law enforcement agencies do their job. Ironically the Indian police are considered second only to Scotland Yard, in terms of number of cases solved, but least we face it statistics lie. Human rights violations in this country are comparable with states like China. Compensation is unheard off. Justice is blind; she is the same to all rich or poor. In our country, I am ashamed to admit our jails are full of people awaiting trail, we have murderers and bandits in parliament. Blue collar crime is rampant. A mere slap on the wrist for the politician, the banker, the accountant who stole a core, a life of misery for the pickpocket who stole five hundred.

In conclusion, the system is not perfect, it is slow and inefficient, and often fails us. Murderers sit in parliament, and petty criminals are turned into hardened criminals in jail. The answer is complicated, first the government must make the courts more efficient, they are duty bound to do so. Checks and balances regulating the police are a must, allowing the CBI to be autonomous would be a step in the right direction, more independence for them would allow them to work better. The Indian Penal Code should be re-examined least we face it, it is a British relic, and should be adapted to our modern state. Education, every citizen of this country should be aware of the law, and their rights within the limits of the law, how to get relief from the court and so on. And finally reformation, this is probably the toughest part, society must try to re-integrate convicts, it is not easy, and it means giving them a second chance, a chance to lead a life with dignity. This is our right, the right to live with dignity, the law didn't take it from them we did, so who's the criminal now?

Vet- Pet MAGIC!!

As you go down to the basement, the scent of dogs and cats is unmistakable and you can hear them whining, yelping and barking. Dr. Arun’s vet clinic and shelter for pets, is one of its kind in the city. His dedication to his work is surpassed only by his love for dogs. Watching him handle the dogs with ease and gentleness reminds you of a mother with her baby. He is starting a physiotherapy clinic, first of its kind in Chennai, for dogs with chronic problems. He has adopted homeless and abandoned dogs, the recent one being Suriya, who is ‘bow-legged’ and has been with Dr. Arun for a year now.

He is based in a small sized apartment, with a reception area where Suriya will be founding ‘kissing’ people, three shelter rooms with temperamental dogs, a surgery room and a bathroom where the dogs are bathed. One wall of the reception area has racks of pet food lined up, most of it is imported. He also has a cold storage stocked up with ‘Pet Beef’ and ‘Sausage rolls’, this is sheer bliss for dogs. Pet owners can spurge their money on ‘Royal Beds’, toothbrushes, ‘Studded’ collars, for their ‘Beloved Poochs’.

Dr. Arun has treated dogs that are poles apart. One of his patients is a mentally challenged Golden Retriever; he says, “There is nothing we can do. They are like humans, they need love and attention.” His kennel once had a pair of Labradors who wouldn’t stop howling if the radio wasn’t played for them, as they were used to constant noise.

It is heartening to know that we have vets who treat their canine patients like they are family.

HANEEF - The witch-hunt story

The Australian government is in a fix. With the Dr. Haneef case falling flat without any substantial evidence to convict him, its time for the Australian government to realise its folly and make amends.

Right from the start, Haneef has been denying his involvement in the Glasgow terror attack. But the Australian Federal Police (AFP), never heeded to any of it. They accused him of ‘reckless’ behaviour only because he gave his SIM card to his cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, which they initially stated was found near the vicinity of attack. It was later found that the SIM was found at Sabeel’s house and Haneef had been stating that all along. Since when was giving away your SIM card to family or friends considered as a terror plot? And even if it was, shouldn’t they have confirmed the details of where and why he passed on the SIM? Indians believe in the concept of not wasting a penny, and if there is credit on the SIM then its perfectly normal to let some one else use it. Would the same treatment be meted out if Haneef had been an Australian and not a Muslim or South Asian?

Kevin Andrews, minister for immigration, has used his discriminatory power in an abusive manner by revoking Haneef’s visa on the grounds of ‘character flaws’. This is a very lose term which is not clearly defined by any law and based on mere suspicion. And we know that in humane judicial system, suspicion is not the basis for conviction. Hence the federal court absolved Haneef of all charges. The minister acted in a racist manner when he cancelled Haneef’s visa, which denied him the right to live and work. This was futile because the main aim was to detain Haneef even after he was granted bail. Andrews did not stop at this; he went on record stating that Haneef’s departure had aroused his suspicions and proceeded to humiliate him further by having immigration officers escort him to the airport.

The Australian Prime Minister has come out in the open with his support to Kevin Andrews. He said there is nothing to apologise about, it is better to be safe than sorry. And also that Australia international reputation hasn’t been harmed. So is he telling us that all the human right protests, media protests people agitating, major part of this happening in Australia, against the entire episode was done for fun? Obviously we are embarrassed by what happened and hence went through the trouble, but that seems to be obnoxiously ignored by the Australian government.

Haneef, despite all the humiliation and trauma that he has been put through, is willing to go back and work in Australia. This leaves him open to any investigation and therefore interrogation techniques that are allowed by the Australian anti-terror law. His willingness to cooperate is a definite sign that he is above suspicion.

If nothing else, the Australian government has stigmatised Haneef and ruined his chances of living a normal life. They can undo this partly by re-instating his visa.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


The Domestic Violence Act passed in 2005 but implemented only in 2006 has not had the desired affect in curbing the perpetrator of the violence and helping the victims. Even after a year of the act being implemented, only an insignificant number of cases have been filed.

This Act is for violence - verbal, physical, economic and/or emotional - against women in a domestic household. It also allows the woman to stay in her matrimonial house or shared household even if her family members want to get rid of her. Dowry harassment can also be filed under this Act. Cases filed under this Act are to be handled by protection officers, service providers and counsellors. Due to lack of these, the Act hasn’t been executed to its full potential.

Also the lack of awareness of the Act amongst people hasn’t helped.
Victims of domestic violence do not speak out for a variety of reasons such as fear, lack of financial independence, child support, society and family hostility amongst many others. The terror of being abused more harshly if they take any legal action is ingrained in their mind.
The Act makes provision for the abuser to be taken into custody and an injunction order can be passed to protect the women from further harm. This will help her to proceed with the legal action without any trepidation. The law also provides monetary compensation to the victim.

A UN report shows that 70% of married women in India are victims of domestic violence. For many years it has been a practice to physically and emotionally abuse a woman if she is not submissive to the man or his family. If she protests, she is beaten up and sent to her house; her in-laws ‘wash’ their hands off her. In her parent’s house she is ill-treated and shunned from society as she has brought great shame to her family for being ‘kicked-out’ of her husband’s house. This is common in poor income households due to poverty and lack of education.

Although we have heard of domestic violence in middle and elite classes in hushed tones, it is no longer a secret because of the media exposure. Dowry harassment cases against Rahul Mahajan and former HRD minister Arjun Singh’s grandson have been registered; this confirms the fact that domestic violence hasn’t escaped the upper strata of the society either. Shweta Mahajan, Rahul Mahajan’s wife, who was beaten for dowry, later withdrew her complaint saying it was just an accident.

Not all women approach the police, as they are afraid of tarnishing their reputation. There is also the problem of women refusing to accept that they are victims of domestic violence; they pretend everything is all right. Women must first come to terms with what is happening with them only then can any form of action be taken.

Women are often emotionally broken down and do not approach the police for help as the treatment meted out to them borders on abhorrence. The police tend to take cases of domestic violence lightly, they dismiss the women saying it’s a ‘family’ matter and should not be publicised. The police do not file a Domestic Incident Report (DIR). There is also a lack of awareness of this Act amongst the police reported L.Srikrishna; workshops should be conducted around the country where they are taught the nuances of the Act and how to handle the cases.

A government survey in 2007 showed that 53% of children in India are subjected to abuse of various types but these assault cases have not been reported. It is difficult to help children under this Act. The lack of knowledge about what is right and allowed – wrong and forbidden is not comprehended completely by children. Even if they do know, they do not speak up for fear of being reprimanded for ‘lying’. Moreover, it is infeasible for a child to go to the police station and file a complaint unless an elder accompanies the child. The survey shows that the abusers are people who live in the same house as the child. Here comes the question of whom to trust?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

COCK ROBIN - help!!!

"Who killed Cock Robin?" "I," said the Sparrow,"With my bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin.""Who saw him die?" "I," said the Fly,"With my little eye, I saw him die.""Who caught his blood?" "I," said the Fish,"With my little dish, I caught his blood.""Who'll make the shroud?" "I," said the Beetle,"With my thread and needle, I'll make the shroud.""Who'll dig his grave?" "I," said the Owl,"With my pick and shovel, I'll dig his grave.""Who'll be the parson?" "I," said the Rook,"With my little book, I'll be the parson.""Who'll be the clerk?" "I," said the Lark,"If it's not in the dark, I'll be the clerk.""Who'll carry the link?" "I," said the Linnet,"I'll fetch it in a minute, I'll carry the link.""Who'll be chief mourner?" "I," said the Dove,"I mourn for my love, I'll be chief mourner.""Who'll carry the coffin?" "I," said the Kite,"If it's not through the night, I'll carry the coffin.""Who'll bear the pall? "We," said the Wren,"Both the cock and the hen, we'll bear the pall.""Who'll sing a psalm?" "I," said the Thrush,"As she sat on a bush, I'll sing a psalm.""Who'll toll the bell?" "I," said the bull,"Because I can pull, I'll toll the bell."All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,When they heard the bell toll for poor Cock Robin.