Sunday, January 30, 2005

Tsunami and Amma

Some of my friends whom I told about my trip were quite happy that a number of NGOs were working towards the longterm rehabilitation of tsunami-hit people. Specifically, many were unaware that the Kerala-headquarterd mutt was doing such a massive work. Frankly, eventhough I have been associated with the mutt, purely from my professional point of view, I myself was very ignorant about this.

Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt -- located on a small strip of island in Alappad panchayat of Kayamkulam taluk in Kollam district -- is a charitable trust involved in social work. Their approach is three-pronged: provide education, health and medical care, and shelter.

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) tells her devotees, and public at large, to be just as they are (to mean: no need to change your profession or religion etc) and work always in a committed and sincere manner that is: one, socially productive and two, ensures peace and harmony among people. Such a simple philosophy! No wonder she has drawn such a large number of followers from across the world.

  • You can view the mutt's home page here.
  • You can view all the details (including photos and video clips) related to tsunami and the mutt's relief and rehabilitation work here.

    Worth checking them out.

  • Friday, January 28, 2005

    Trip to tsunami-hit areas

    I am back from my tour of Alappad panchayat of Kollam district in Kerala on the west coast and Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu on the east coast. It was hectic, informative, educative and at times even haunting. I returned on Jan 26.

    Alappad panchayat was one of the worst hit by the tsunami on Dec 26. It is on a thin stretch of island that is some 17 km long and just less than a kilometre wide. It is on this island that the Mata Amritanandamayi ashram is located.

    The deadly waves struck at 12.26 pm and within a few minutes it left a trail of death and destruction. The sea flowed over the island into the backwater. 147 people are either missing or confirmed dead. Even on the day I was there (on Jan 22) a body was found.

    The Brahmacharis and Brahmacharinis of the mutt led by Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) rescued hundreds of villagers by moving them across the backwaters in boats to the mainland. Most of them were housed in the Amrita institutions there.

    The mutt drew from its vast resource of institutions like medical, nursing, and management; and also legion of devotees to provide succour to the affected people. Mutt was the only institution distributing food and water every day to the people and also providing medical assistance. Government machinery took a long time to be activated. On Jan 22, at some temporary shelter the mutt stopped supplying food as the government was ready with it.

    I was quite privileged and blessed to be allowed to interview Amma. I reached Alappad around 5 pm on Jan 22. After a wash went for Darshan of Amma. We thought the interview may happen only after 9 pm or so. But as we were sitting there near the podium where Amma was giving darshan, word came that she would meet me immediately.

    What every one thought would be for not more than say 30 minutes or so, the conversation went for two hours. She spoke of the premonition she had. The darshan for more than 10,000 people on that day was given on the first floor and not on the ground floor as on Sundays. She also spoke of the long-term relief and rehabilitation plans of the mutt.

    After dinner at 9 pm, we went to Azheekkal village, some two km to the north, where the mutt had just begun construction of a temporary shelter. The work had begun at 3 pm the previous day (Jan 21). But when I went there around 11 pm it was almost 60 percent done.

    These shelters are for relocating families who had been shifted to relief camps in the mainland. Nine temporary shelters are already up in the neighbouring village of Srayikkal where some 200 families are staying pending reconstruction of their houses by the mutt.

    Around midnight we returned and saw a video film of the entire disaster. It was shot by the communication division of the mutt. It was unedited raw footage. The entire disaster is on tape: the waves strike, the panic, people struggling to higher levels of saftety, the destruction, the immediate relief, cremation, etc....

    The video footage is perhaps a very unique document detailing so vividly a tragic landmark in our history. I wanted to get a copy of it. But couldn't since it was incomplete and unedited. If you are visiting the mutt, they will show it, within their premises.

    On Jan 23, Sunday, I saw the relief camps up. One of the first steps that the mutt did was to hand over to the government 5 acres out of the 10 acres of land it (the mutt) owns, so that the government can put up its shelters. But, so tragically, the temporary shelters of the government are yet to come up. Only the supporting poles are there. No roof.

    Around 6 pm we left Amritapuri for Nagapattinam. Around 2 am (Jan 23, Monday) we reached Madurai. We checked into a hotel. In the morning we went to the historic temple. What a temple!

    After breakfast we resumed our journey. Around 2 pm we reached Thanjavur where we had lunch. Around 5 pm we reached Nagapattinam.

    Nagapattinam is another place that has suffered lot of damage. Mutt devotees reached the place three days after the waves struck. The place was haunted, they say. The government machinery had broken down. No wonder there was lawlessness. Anyway how much of discipline is there during normal times?

    The collector, Radhakrishnan (a really dynamic young guy), told me that during the initial days there were too many benefactors (known and unknown) who landed up without knowing whom to help. The number has come down. Now only big players, who really mean good, are there. They are working out long-term rehabilitation plans with the government.

    The government machinery is quite impressed with the credentials of Amritanandamayi Mutt's activities. The collector is on record on this. After the Kumbakonam fire tragedy, the mutt had done charitable work there. Radhakrishnan was the collector there then.

    I have been covering the mutt's activities for some time now. What I understand is that for them, spirituality is not the overriding thing, but social work: covering basic needs like housing, health care and education. The spiritual factor is more for disciplining ourselves, an anchor for our lives that is often swayed violently by temporal influences.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005

    Leaving for tsunami-hit areas

    There won't be any postings till Wednesday, Jan 26. In a couple of hours I am leaving for a reporting assignment on relief work going on in tsunami-affected areas. Hope to cover two places. Going straight to Kollam in Kerala. Then travel to Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu. It's going to be hectic.

    Friday, January 21, 2005

    Bangalore bandh

    I had gone to Marthahalli in the morning. I found the shops closed. During the course of the day, news came in of lots of shops shutting down. Many buses were stoned. Inflammable material were set afire. Hooligans had a field day. All in response to the Benny Hinn show.

    When Uma Bharti was arrested there was a call for Bangalore bandh but it was not successful. May be it was because it was a political issue and this was a religious issue.

    Going by the number of people who attended it, the show was a big event. Some five lakh was the number quoted. There were many VIPs and their relatives who were in the list of people who wanted to be healed and cured. Many claimed they were, and many said there was no effect.

    Sania at Australian Open

    It was such a treat seeing Sania playing. No other Indian girl has reached this far. She lost 0-6, 4-6 to Serena. But she won the hearts. She gave some challenge in the second set. Serena had encouraging words for Sania. Sania also realised that Serena could win the big points. Hope Sania reaches greater heights.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    Bush's second term

    George Bush was sworn in for a second term an hour back. "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," he told the gathering. Very familiar words, and as usual very hollow. What about Saudi Arabia, Pakistan etc etc?

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Faith is personal

    I hold no brief for Benny Hinn or any other religious leader, in case some one thought so, reading my previous post.

    Like they say in Bangalore's ubiquitous call centres, "I have a neutral accent"; here let me say, "I have a neutral stand." I am not at all interested in knowing the credentials of Binny Hinn.

    You may ask then why am I so "worked up" about him, if I don't have a stand at all. Because of the protest. I could have understood rationalists protesting; but not other religious leaders. I could have understood if all these people who are protesting were being pressurised to attend the prayer meeting.

    My approach in this matter is very simple.
    If A wants to go for the prayer meeting. Let him go.
    If B doesn't want to go. Let him not go.
    We should not ask A not to go, or ask B to go. Either way, it is equally bad.

    I wouldn't like someone to question my faith in whatever that gives me strength and peace of mind. Also, I wouldn't like anyone to force me to believe in or follow something that I don't believe in. Again, either way it is bad. I am sure it applies to all individuals. These are all very subjective, personal matters of faith that are best left to the discretion of individuals.

    Finally, because of the protests, Benny Hinn got all the free publicity. Much more than probably he expected.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Benny Hinn show

    The talking point in Bangalore now is the Benny Hinn show. For those who aren't aware of it, here is a small introduction.

    Benny Hinn is a California-based pastor. He goes around the world holding prayer meetings. He has been to India before too. There was one in Mumbai in February last year. Many non-Christians (even very well-educated people) are attracted to these prayer meetings and to his teachings. (Just as a lot of non-Hindus are attracted to congregations of Hindu leaders.)

    The Bangalore meet, to be held from January 21 to 23, is the Pray for India rally at
    Festival of Blessing. It is being held also to bring relief and comfort for those affected by the tsunami.

    This is at the centre of a controversy now. Radical Hindu groups are opposing the staging of the function saying it is aimed at converting non-Christians to Christianity. The other allegation is that the Faith Healing or Miracle Healing is "a fraud". They are also opposing the role of the government in this; since government land is being given for the function.

    The orgainsers have held a press conference rebutting the allegations. The chief minister says the show will go on as there is nothing in the Indian Constitution that bars religious meetings. He says if conversion takes place, law will deal with it. Both parties have also approached the court.

    A lot of people who have never heard of this, have suddenly become aware of these prayer meetings. And, because of the controversy generated they are curious to know what indeed happens there. Some even fear if there could be violence. But police are all geared up to ensure peace.

    Personally, I don't know why there should be such a hue and cry. And, I also don't understand why this particular meet has become controversial. After all such meetings are commonly held all over, aren't they?

    Every religion survives on Faith. Cases of Miracle Healing and Faith Healing are there in every religion. Why religion? Haven't we seen very ordinary doctors who are very successful. Just go and meet them you feel so good. It's all in your mind. If someone is getting cured of his suffering, and is getting the peace he badly needs, why should others have a problem?

    Regarding conversion, no one can convert you unless you are willing. And, whether you are willing or not, is your very personal matter. I don't think any one else has a right over that. We all (irrespective of our religion) turn to God and religion when we need His help and blessing. Aren't all religions similar in their goals: for peace, happiness and the well-being of the people.

    Religion is only a tool to guide us on the right track. It's not an end in itself. A society's prosperity doesn't depend on which religion its people belong to. It depends on the availability of minimum comfort levels for our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being.

    When so many things are crying for our attention, especially that of politicians and administrators, in Bangalore, aren't they barking up the wrong tree?

    Sunday, January 16, 2005

    Think before you post your blog entry

    A bookshop owner in Scotland (not England) has lost his job over what he posted on his blog. He used to post his problems at the workplace. He once referred to his "Evil Boss", he twisted his store's name in an inappropriate way, and complained that he did not get an off for his birthday. He was sacked.

    Don't think being anonymous can be safe. Last year an airline worker in the US was sacked for "inappropriate images" of her on her anonymous blog.

    In a high-profile case, a Croatian diplomat in Washington was fired in November last year, for writing on his blog that diplomatic meetings are boring, and that there is no difference between George Bush and John Kerry.

  • My blog posting on Croatian diplomat sacked


  • Internet warning after blog sacking (From The Scotsman)


    PEOPLE who post their observations on the internet were today (on Jan 12) warned to watch what they write after an Edinburgh bookshop worker became the first person in Britain to be sacked over his "blog" entries.

    Joe Gordon, an employee at Waterstone’s store at the East End of Princes Street for 11 years, occasionally used his weblog to sound off about bad days at work.

    He referred to "Bastardstone’s" and his "Evil Boss" and complained about not getting a day off for his birthday.

    He said he was dismissed from his £12,000-a-year job without warning for gross misconduct and bringing the company into disrepute - even though he was ready to agree to stop referring to Waterstone’s in his blogs.

    An airline attendant in America was sacked last year for "inappropriate images" on her anonymous blog. But the TUC said Mr Gordon’s was the first blog sacking case in this country.

    And today Campbell Deane, a partner of the law firm Bannatyne, Kirkwood, France, said other bloggers should beware.

    "People should remember that there is no separate law for the internet. Just because what you write appears on the internet rather than in print does not give you any greater rights."

    Mr Gordon, 37, said the firm had over-reacted. "This wasn’t a sustained attack. I was not deliberately trying to harm the company. I was venting my spleen," he said. "I wasn’t libelling anyone or giving away trade secrets.

    "Blogging allows you to vent steam about a bad day at work in a healthy way rather than doing it at work. There was no direct reference to anyone in the company and it took place outside working hours."

    And Mr Gordon claimed his sacking raised questions about freedom of expression. "The book trade can only exist with freedom of speech and information." He added: "It is a big personal blow to me to lose my job and it also has grave implications beyond that - for anyone who works for any company and blogs, which is thousands of people."

    Mr Gordon has been running his online satirical newsletter, Woolamaloo Gazette, since 1992, the year before he began working for Waterstone’s.
    The Retail Books Association, which represents 6000 people in the book trade, said it would help Mr Gordon appeal against his dismissal.

    A spokesman for Waterstone’s said the company could not comment because there was an ongoing disciplinary procedure and Mr Gordon still had two rights of appeal.

    Worker sacked over blog comments (From BBC)

    An Edinburgh man has lost his job over comments made about his employer in an online diary, or "blog". Bookseller Joe Gordon, 37, had worked for Waterstone's book chain for 11 years and was based at its Princes Street store.

    In his blog, the Woolamaloo Gazette, Mr Gordon said he was dismissed for gross misconduct after the firm said his writings had brought it into disrepute.
    Waterstone's said Mr Gordon would have two opportunities to appeal.
    A spokeswoman added that she could not comment further as it was an ongoing disciplinary matter.

    Mr Gordon wrote that he was called into his manager's office shortly before Christmas and told he was the subject of an inquiry into whether he should face a disciplinary hearing over comments posted on his blog. "I was informed (more than once) that this could cause my dismissal. "I was suspended on pay and escorted from the premises of the bookstore I had worked in for eleven years."
    He said the disciplinary hearing took place on 5 January and he was dismissed.
    'Evil boss'

    Mr Gordon went on to say that he would occasionally mention his work life online, coining phrases such as "Bastardstone's" and referring to his manager as "Evil Boss". "I pointed out that I had not set out to deliberately ruin the company's image. "In fact I don't think I have even inadvertently; if I had wished to do that then I would have been running less satirical and far more biting comments on a rather more regular basis, rather than commenting from time to time about a bad day at work, a grumpy manager or the like.

    "You'd think I had run a sustained propaganda campaign of subversion."
    Mr Gordon claimed his dismissal breached his right to free speech. He said that Waterstone's had no clear policy on blogging and had not accepted his offer to stop writing and accept a warning.

    Saturday, January 15, 2005

    Postal Dept vs Courier companies

    There was a time some 10 years back when letters took anything between 3 to 6 days to reach its destination within our country. Courier companies then stepped in to fill the need for people to send their postal material quicker. People were excited as the mail reached its destination within 24 hours, though at a high price. So, usually people resorted to this route for urgent needs.

    Then, the government woke up. Speed Post was born. It is as good as private courier companies. If not better. And often much more reliable, too. But now many (especially banks and other private companies) have switched to the private courier companies to send their regular communications. I suspect some arrangement with courier companies.

    And, this is giving us a huge problem. The postman knows all the houses like the back of his hand. But not so the courier company delivery boy. Result: many letters routed through courier companies return undelivered. For example: Credit Card statement from banks, letters from insurance companies, magazines which are being subscribed etc etc.

    A delivery boy himself complained, "Out of 12 articles with me in this area, in the last three hours yours is just the third one that I have manage to deliver. It's so difficult to locate the houses. Many addresses have no phone number. And, even if the number is there, who will compensate me for makng those phone calls to locate the house?"

    Any similar experience for you?

    Why not rely on the more trusted and reliable Postal department? Not only it has such a huge network, it is now a much better organised establishment.

    Not everything that is government is bad. Everything that is private is not good either.

    Thursday, January 13, 2005

    Admission blues

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court in an excellent verdict stipulated that Std XII results all across the country should be out by June 10, so that students can join professional courses in time.

    This has been a problem faced by millions of students over so many decades. Many students used to lose a year. Finally, some solution, I guess. In our democratic country, the Supreme Court is the only institution people listen to. They have no alternative. Maybe the Supreme Court could go ahead and rectify other problems faced by students during admission to professional colleges.

    The worst part is the indecision. Because of unclear admission procedures students don't know where they can get admission and when. It's often a sad story of a student trying his or her luck. There are so many colleges, so many courses, and students don't know what course is available where.

    In how many colleges, you can get the basic information regarding the courses they have on one bulletin board? That is something so basic which a college can easily put up. Often there will be one person at some counter who will be sick and tired of answering umpteen questions of countless people.

    Another problem is that admissions to the same course (like management) in different colleges begin at different months. What can be worse than this!

    Hope these things are set right at the earliest.

    Amrish Puri dead

    Amrish Puri died yesterday of brain haemorrhage. I am not very well-versed with movies. But as I read his obiturary, what struck me the most was the fact that he had failed a screen test early in life. And, he finally made to the silver screen only at the age of 40. It goes to prove that it's never too late in life. I am sure there are many other similar inspirational examples.

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    What's Jaya up to?

    One of those days after a long time when there were many competing items of news. It started off with the tsunami relief cricket from which at the end of the day they collected at least 11 million dollars. Then there was this bus accident. Really horrible for a driver to be drunk and let the conductor steer the bus to doom.

    Through the day, there was another drama unfolding. Supreme Court let off Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati on bail. That was expected since SC had been making observations that the prosecution didn't have really clinching evidence as of now.

    But the master stroke, if we could call that, came in the evening around 6 pm. Jayalalithaa getting Junior pontiff Vijayendra Saraswati arrested. We heard reports the she may even seal the mutt. But till late night that news couldn't be confirmed. The mutt his head less.

    The timing is amazing. I won't be surprised if Jayalalithaa had an inkling of the SC granting bail and had the act ready, for arresting the junior seer. But how is it that she is so sure of there being no backlash to her moves. Or, is she blundering along on a suicidal path?

    Sunday, January 9, 2005

    Caste divide in relief camps

    Two places where Tsunami relief is getting messed up are in Sri Lanka and, sadly, in Nagapattinam. The Tamil-Sinhala rivalry hasn't been broken by the disaster. Nor the caste divisions.

    This brings to my mind, an incident some 10 years back -- in September 1995. (Incidentally, one month prior to the Surat plague.) I was in Vadodara. The city got flooded after a dam was opened following torrential rain lasting two full days. That was the first time I experienced flooding on the scale that we see on TV.

    As water began entering the house of one of my colleagues, he shifted his family, including his grandmother, to a flat upstairs. So much was the flooding that water rose up to more than half the height of the rooms.

    In the upstairs house, the grandmother of my colleague refused to have even water from the hosts. My colleague, who was himself shocked, told me the reason. She was a Brahmin, and the hosts were Muslims. My friend told me that he tried his best to convince his grandmom. But she wouldn't.

    Luckily water receded after a day, during which she ate or drank nothing. Then, by wading through knee-deep water, food was brought to her from the house of another colleague who was a Brahmin.

    It was at the initiative and with the help of the Muslim neighbours that my friend had shifted to their house. They were very good friends too. His grandmom's behaviour was so embarrassing that my friend had to reel out a series of lies to the hosts (like, because of health reasons, she takes only particular type of food etc, etc.) My friend, who is quite progressive in his thoughts and actions, was very upset with his grandmom. As he told me with a lot of disappointment, "Maybe, it's the mindset of a previous generation that's difficult for us to fathom."

    But today too such mindsets exist. Don't they?

    During the last two days Indian Express has been carrying stories by Rajeev P.I. on how relief efforts have been muddied by communal colour.

    In Nagapattinam, Dalit suvivors of 63 damaged villages were thrown out of relief camps, cut out of food, water supplies and even toilets. They were being harassed by the majority Meenavar community, who are of the Most Backward Class. For them Dalits are still more backward and untouchable! Imagine the extent of backwardness.

    Now, it turns out that the government instead of taking corrective steps, reinforced this divide. Officials had been told to give separate treatment to the powerful Meenavar community. They say it is "more practical, since there is so much hatred between the two communities."

    In Tirunelveli too Dalits have been complaining of discrimination.

    It's really difficult to believe how even when your survival is at stake, caste and communal preferences can prevail. Just goes to show how deep the divide is; still.

    Saturday, January 8, 2005

    Media watch on relief efforts

    Maya made this comment to my previous posting:
    If not anything else, why can't the media and other social organisation highlight this aspect of a transparent agency and at least make people aware of this wonderful idea? Why aren't journalists, who are more keen to report on personal stories of victims, ready to highlight this point and why aren't edits being written about this?? why? why? why?

    Well, we are still getting stories about how a number of people survived the agony... These stories touch our hearts, don't they? They also show how human spirit triumphs over adversity.

    Express did have on page one a few days back how touts may be trying to exploit the situation and on how we all should be a bit discreet while being charitable. Today FBI issued a warning against frauds tying to solicit money on websites.

    That both government and private agencies are out to make money is more of a suspicion in our minds stemming out of our lack of confidence in the system. There is no evidence yet of a fraud. Actually, it is too early to make any assessment on how well relief agencies have handled the funds. And, too early to authoritatively comment on it. In fact, many agencies are still getting contributions. We all will have to wait for a while to see how well the rehab efforts take shape.

    If you remember, after the Gujarat earthquake too a similar situation prevailed. An air of suspicion on whether the money is being rightly channelised. That a lot of the money collected didn't reach the victims were reported quite widely then.

    We have a very vibrant press... Our media ranges from very conservative to sensational. A very broad spectrum, that any free society can rightly be proud of. I am sure our media will keep a watch on the relief efforts and scream if something goes wrong. It's too early to assess the success or otherwise of the rehab efforts.

    Friday, January 7, 2005

    Tsunami Relief -- Credibility issue

    Money is pouring into the government kitty as well as those of NGOs and other private organisations. Yesterday at the Tsunami Relief Conference in Jakarta, Kofi Annan said some 4 billion dollars is needed for reconstruction and he expressed fears that all the assured sums may not materialise. Some papers carried photos of relief workers counting currency notes that have come in. Now, this is hard cash. The amounts of money that have indeed materialised; though it may be just a small fraction of what is needed.

    But sadly there is lot of talk on whether the money will indeed reach the victims. At the root of it is the issue of trust and perception. Whether it is in India or the US or Europe, when you send a cheque. there is absolutely no way of knowing how that particular amount of money has ended up. You can track it, only if you specifically sponsore a project, where you can then ask the project manager what has been done with the X amount of money that you gave.

    Now here is a case where all and sundry have invited help; and equally all and sundry have sent cheques. If you didn't have faith you wouldn't have paid. And if you have paid you have done that to an organisation which you trust. Since in this mass contribution scenario, there is no way of tracking the individual sums of money, we all who have contributed have only one option: be optimistic and hope that every paisa has been utilised well.

    As mentioned the credibility issue has largely got to do with our perception of the system that we live in. The government could have done much more. Instead of merely saying we need lots of aid, the central government and Jayalalithaa government could have instituted a well-publicised and clearly visible Tsunami Relief Coordinating Agency, under the command of a group of public servants who enjoy a lot of respect and admiration in the eyes of the public.

    Instead of getting people to send money to PM's and CM's Relief Fund (which is not specifically for Tsunami, but for all disasters), the govt should have got people to send money to this government Agency. To tackle the multiplicity of private organsations, this Agency should have put out a list of such organisations that are trust-worthy (after duly examining their credentials.) And, this Agency should have given free access to the media, so that the whole exercise is absolutely transparent. Now, this would have boosted the credibility of the relief fund enormously. And, there would have been fewer skeptics around.

    The Agency could then have announced that it has received this much sum: out of which so much is being spent of this, so much on that etc. A detailed income - expenditure account should be published. And, when people see for themselves that what was planned has actually materialised, they develop trust and faith in the system. Something that our country lacks horribly.

    It is not that the US or the West in general is free of corruption. Crooks are there too. But still why people say "In the West things are much better"? It's because one, corruption is minimal, and two, in spite of corruption things work.

    In the US you may not know where your contribution of $50 has gone. But, you see a lot of relief and rehabilitation taking place, through a systematic and transparent mechanism. Here, neither you know where your Rs 1,000 has gone nor you see a very efficient network putting things back in order. If the latter is set right, the former will take care of itself.

    It's not enough that India just tells world that we don't need foreign aid, we can well look after ourselves. We need to show ourselves first that we can indeed look after ourselves.

    Thursday, January 6, 2005

    PM's relief fund

    I thought government relief funds like the PM's and CM's relief funds wouldn't bag much contributions. because of the low credibility government agencies enjoy. But today's Express carries a story by Ritu Sarin saying PM's relief funds has collected Rs 350 crore so far. Rs 35 crore in the last two days. But issues of accountability are still there. I don't think anyone truly believes every paise contributed is actually reaching the needy. The BJP yesterday came out with a suggestion to link contributions from each taluk of the state with an area in TN, so that the money contributed can be tracked and accounted for.

    Tsunami relief -- credibility question

    Like the Gujarat earthquake and the earlier Latur quake, the tsunami waves have in turn opened floodgates of relief. Individuals and organisations are announcing aid for victims. Sometimes I wonder if there is a competitive element in it -- like the "I gave more than him" sort.

    Even though there is a lot of skepticism on whether all the money is reaching the affected people, the way people are taking out their cheque books is amazing. I wish people exhibited the same sort of sensitivity at normal times!

    One thing I noticed was that generally people distrust the PM's and CM's Relief Fund. Most people I spoke to preferred contributing to relief funds of well-known newspapers or TV channesl -- an indication of the respective levels of credibility. Yesterday, I saw heaps of cheques at my office. Also it feels good that people are trusting the organisation you work for with their cheques.

    Sunday, January 2, 2005

    Bad miss

    This is what you call a bad miss. And, also a cruel paradox.
    While India Today and Frontline hit the stands with coverage of Tsunami tragedy, Outlook has the annual double issue. And guess what it screams: 47% Indians say they are very happy. And it's all about happiness, when the nation is still talking about the tidal waves that wreaked havoc.
    Since it is a double issue, we will have to wait another week to read it all in Outlook.