Category: Politics & Social Issues Page 2 of 6

FOMO and Fake News: It’s a Match!

I’m pretty sure that our generation, and the plus minus one, will be referred in history books for two things FOMO and Fake News. Of course, books also have to be there, in the far future.
Not surprisingly, both contribute and encourage each other.
For the uninitiated, FOMO refers to ‘Fear of Missing Out’. Yes, an abbreviation. The fear that we might not get to do what others are doing or it might be too late. Perhaps it was prevalent since ages, but we got time to nomenclate even this syndrome.
Fake news, of course, is the favorite brainchild of propaganda machinery. And thanks to the mighty Internet, is everywhere.
Reports by NASA suggest that in every 100-meter radius, 3 out of 5 people read a fake news!
Can you believe that ?!
Well, if you did. Then you read another fake news. You see, how EASY it is?
Coming back to, how FOMO and Fake News go together about their business of making us restless. And Fools. Yes.
Fake news is exciting, controversial and prone to sound urgent. It lights up bulbs in your heads, adds or pushes you to share it as well. I mean, don’t you want to be that ‘helpful’ ‘cool’ and ‘smart’ person who shares it?
And you have to be the first one. At least in your circle. Right ?
There’s your FOMO.
And wow, ‘jab mil baithe do yaar, FOMO, fake news aur ek idiot behind a smartphone‘. Just as real as Bagpiper Club Sodas and Music cassettes. Come on, we all beloved they were just that ?!
The lack of a filter in our brain and no sense of journalistic standards in publishing stories in an age where every WhatsApp group and Facebook page with a few likes can become the ‘Source of the news’ and when opinions become facts, yes, we live in that age.
So now when we think of people who believed in the earth is flat as stupid. We should remember that generations later, our ‘documented’ history will reveal a lot more insight about us.

Freedom to Be

How do you feel when you hear the news of someone being killed in a terrorist attack ? Or an attack by Cow-Vigilates ? Or restrictions imposed by one religion on others ?

If your reaction is not a uniform outrage, then you need to reason yourself why it isn’t so. Reason hard, my friend.

And if you do get outraged over the​ acts of these lunatics, then hey! Welcome to the club!

The common connection that binds these attacks is the mindset. The mindset which thinks that they are ‘doing the right thing’.

Be it the terrorists who kill innocent people or the lynch mob that kills people for eating beef, transporting cows and in future maybe even looking at cows, are the same. If you still cannot see the distinction then, I’ll again advice you to reason with yourself as to why they are different.

There is no sense of guilt when people commit these crimes. In their head, they are doing ‘what is right or that they’re carrying out God’s work.

And this thought process is not about ‘religion’. The people who actually carry out these activities don’t know much about their own religion. All they do is follow someone. It wouldn’t be wrong to add ‘blindly’ as the appropriate adjective for that.

Even when their conscience pulls them away from doing something inhumane, it is by following their supposed ‘leaders’ that they embark on the ‘right’ path.

I had talked about the ‘credibility’ of people whom we follow and how that can harm us in an earlier post. It is quite critical to allow ourselves to be exposed to new information. To make ourselves open to experiences beyond what we’ve always known to be right.

I’ve shared numerous restaurant tables with people where someone’s having a beer, or bacon, while I’m eating beef. Sure, I don’t like the idea of alcohol and I won’t drink it myself. But should I beat someone up for drinking ? Or should someone do the same because I eat beef ?

It all comes down to just one thing. Freedom to choose. Choosing to eat, wear, speak whatever one wants.

Sure, if there’s something that offends anyone, there has to be respect provided for it too. Forcing others to accept your choice is wrong and there’s no two-ways about it.

We all have to learn to accommodate others in our lives. It can mean certain compromises too but that’s how a civil society functions and thrives.

Concept of one-rule-applies-to-all doesn’t work in a multi-cultural democracy like ours.

The country does not belong to one community. The country does not speak any one language. The country does not eat just one type of food.

You don’t have to agree with others’ choices but learn to accept it.

The New Normal

I wrote 2 years back on ‘Why I’m not sorry that I eat beef’ Looking back at it now, it seems to be a post filled with anger and something that I used as a medium to vent out the frustration.

And yet, we are again back in the beef-talk!

Of course, it just doesn’t stop there. Meerut’s mayor says, singing ‘Vande Mataram’ is compulsory to stay in India.

There’s an actual ’Anti- Romeo-squad’ working in Uttar Pradesh, ensuring ‘safety’ of women.

If you thought 2014 was ‘shocking’ then perhaps there was more to come. Someone who is okay with ‘Muslim women should be taken out from graves and raped’, believes inter-religious marriages are ‘love jihad’ and has a series of hate speeches to his credit, is now the Chief Minister of the most populated state of our country. But then were the standards any high?

At least, Yogi Ji has a degree that he can actually show to people.

Believe me, with the kind of PR already being done, from breakfast menu to hair-cut, a hashtag campaign with #AdityanathFor2024 isn’t far away. I mean the mere thought of Muslims taking over the population of 65% population of Hindus while the Christian Missionaries support them in converting, is enough for people to Vote!

Of course, this isn’t Vote Bank Politics. Nor is it Majority-appeasement.

Some of you must be thinking, all of this to be minor incidents blown out of proportion and all of this is just my paranoia. You know what, I’d be really happy if this is so. I would actually be happy to be proven wrong.

But the fact is, even if things go wrong, it’ll become ‘normal’. Just as Vajpayee became ‘less communal’ because of ‘Advani’ and then ‘Advani’ became secular because of ‘Modi’, over time, Adityanath with his ‘development’ and ‘progress’ in UP will become the new Normal.

For good reasons, I hope that all my fears are proven wrong. But then!

Understanding Right to Education Act

“…to accept it (this truth) is to recognize that every culture contains itself its own doom unless it pays as much attention to the education of the mass of mankind as to the education of the exceptionally gifted people”

Professor Hogden in Mathematics for the million, London, 1942

I read this excerpt in Nehru’ Discovery of India and it still echoes strongly. Education has to be the priority for the masses. 
The Right to Education (RTE) bill was passed in 2009 (came into force on 1 April 2010) and since then only 8% schools have come under the provision of RTE.
Now, what exactly is the Right to education anyways?
RTE makes education as a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14. All private schools have to reserve 25% of seats for kids admitted on the basis of economic status or caste based reservations. The Central and State government (70-30 partnership, approx) will reimburse the schools for this.
I’m pretty sure many of you have forgotten that such an act even exists. Well, blame it on the poor PR skills of the previous government. And of course our amazing bureaucracy.
But we cannot solely blame the bureaucracy. If you look at the budget allocation over the years, India’s % allocation on education when compared to other countries’ is dismal. Going by data from 2012, we rank 143rd in the list of countries based on education spending as a percentage of our GDP.
On paper, RTE is revolutionary and could have helped in bringing more number of kid into primary education. Implementation has always been a key problem in our country and this is no different.
There has been a fair share of critique to this act because it’s a reform for the past. Focus on quality education and changing the outcome of what we currently dish out as the ‘final product’. If you consider numerous reports of humongous numbers like 50% of engineers are unemployable, it fits the critique too. What kind of education are we giving?
However, with a sizeable population, which doesn’t even have access to primary education screams louder, the priority has to be about fixing that. Everything, of course, needs to be done parallel but primary education needs to be fixed!
Access to primary education helps open doors to a new life for many families.
Sure, RTE has a lot of structural issues and that may be one of the reasons for its implementation as well. But this has to be part of ‘News’ and ‘debates’ instead of whether we’ll get to see a temple/Mosque in Ayodhya.
This is just a start to understanding RTE and reforms around education. I’d love if you have any valuable inputs to add to this. This might not be much but we can do our bit. Right?

In your Opinion ?

I’m currently watching a TV-show called, “The Good Wife” and about to finish the 2nd season. So, no spoilers, please.
The show has the backdrop of a law firm and a lot of legal jargons, courtroom dramas, etc. One of the recurring judges has the habit of asking the attorneys to add, ‘in my opinion’ at the end of each statement. For e.g, if the defense claims that the accused is not guilty of the charges, the lawyer arguing his case will have to say, ‘Your honor, my client is innocent, in my opinion’.
As much as it appears funnily annoying and makes the judge appear to be a jerk. It makes so much sense.
If you can re-imagine all the conversations you’ve had with ‘in my opinion’ you would never be taken for a ride.
Everything one says is an opinion. Even this piece you’re reading now, is an opinion.
I’ll let you in on a Trade secret. Not such a big one, though.
From the time I started writing Movie reviews (, I’ve made sure to not read its review before I watch the movie. Even though I write and want people to read my reviews, I strongly believe (again, in my opinion) that it’s so easy to form an opinion on the movie based on what I’d read prior to watching it. It isn’t like I don’t read reviews but I read them after I’ve written mine.
Sure, we believe someone’s opinion based on their credibility. It does take time for people to build that credibility.
And that’s why all the propaganda starts with making you agree on few aspects of the message to help build their credibility. The brainwash requires a long chain of knots, tied slowly, to chain you up.
People have to realize that a large section of the society, once they’ve build a sizable credibility, will try to reap a few fruits out of it too.
It is critical to have the filter of ‘in their opinion’ to every news, every speech and every action. In the age of cheap social-media driven PR, anyone can become a hero or a villain. The only thing that matters is, whose opinion people give-in easily.
P.S. In my opinion.

There’s a lot in a name

This story popped up on my Timeline a while back.

It describes the ordeals of a 25-year old who faced difficulties in getting a job because of his name.

Saddam Hussain.

It reminded me of how we, as kids who were to appear for our Matriculation exam in the following year, were surprised. Surprised to learn that our friend, whose name was Saddam, has decided to change his name.

If I recall correctly, most of us were of the opinion that its just paranoia. We were kids without the knowledge of how the real world functions. I’m glad he changed his name and avoided unwanted troubles.

I also happened to know a really nice guy with the name Osama. He never changed his name and its been years’ since i met him and he will definitely have a long list of interesting stories to tell.

I do wonder what do people with my namesake are doing ? Will I be responsible for actions they commit or are even blamed for ?

Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor had to face a lot of trouble for naming their baby, Taimur. Although, I’m glad they did not change it!

Choosing a name is no more limited to auspicious time or letters. A quick Google search of all the infamous personalities is now part of the checklist as well.

Shakespeare wasn’t far-sighted enough, I guess. There’s a lot in a name. Not everything is Rosy after all.

Why we should wait before reacting to ‘News’

Remember that time when we used to wait for that sound of the newspaper being thrown at our doors by the newspaper guy? It used to be me or Dada anxiously waiting.

24×7 news channels weren’t there back then and newspapers were the thing. The timeline of reporting was longer and whatever reached us in the morning was quite certainly a clearer picture.

With the advent of News Channels, things changed and news could reach us instantly in the form of ‘Breaking news’. In this hurry to make it reach faster and claim, ‘We were the first ones to report it’, fact-checks stopped being a priority.

And then Twitter happened and news needed to be even faster.

I don’t know how many of you have watched, “The Newsroom” but there’s an interesting episode which talks exactly about this issue. To give you some context, the tv-series is a take on issues regarding news production, news and conflicts and of course journalistic ethics. This particular episode, which I mentioned, is how a news channel decides to wait before declaring the result of an election. Even when all other news channels have already reported it, they decide to wait and it turns out all others were wrong. And they were right.

How many news-channels would do that?Running a story without fact checking seems to be the norm these days. Everyone wants a headline. The Junta too needs just a headline to react and the wait-it-out and see approach seldom works.

A few days earlier, there was a ‘controversy’ where a reality show singer has been issued a ‘fatwa’ for not singing. Everyone was reacting to it, articles were written, facebook statuses were unleashed and what was the result? That there was no fatwa! Don’t even get me started on stupid Fatwas becoming prime time news.

Few days before, when the Gurmeher Kaur issue was the talk of the town, Minister Kiren Rijju reacted to questions from journalists. Later, he himself said that he hasn’t watched the video on which the entire controversy was based!

The Issue with dangal actress Zaira Waseem to Kanhaiya Kumar, who is the face of anti-nationals, to a long-list of ‘controversies’ which could very well be a side-column of a newspaper is the front page news. Probably because everyone needs a ‘front-page’ news item every hour!

Our FOMO instincts make us share the fake news stories circulated by Political IT Teams based on our confirmation bias.

When news channels start competing with Entertainment channels, this is bound to happen.
A lot of blame also has to fall on us, who are actively living on social media. Before writing something as a reaction straightaway, let’s try to wait for a while for the story to develop and then express our ‘valuable’ view-point. Our high-degree of FOMO needs to be controlled!

Why Irom Sharmila losing is not a surprise

Irom Sharmila losing is no surprise. That’s how politics works!
There’s a general outcry on the Internet for Irom Sharmila. People expressing their outrage because Irom Sharmila got just 90 Votes in Manipur.
Just stop, right there.
Have a look at the candidates in your own constituency who were contesting in the last elections. How many of those candidates have criminal records against them? How many of those have been powerful industrialists-turned-politicians or reformed-criminal-turned-politicians?
Going by an article published in the guardian, before 2014 General Elections, 1/5th of the candidates had criminal charges. Even the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh elections saw 322 out of 403 ‘Crorepati’ MLAs winning. Out of these 143 have criminal charges against them.
The idea of a politician, in the general population’s head, is a powerful figure. Someone who isn’t easily scared by others. A figure which people respect and fear. Fear and respect go hand-in-hand, in our democracy. Sadly. 
To be fair, in every election, we do have a few candidates who are honest, have spent years in social work, and now hope to serve a constituency. Right ? But if their image doesn’t echo a sense of power with their target vote-bank, irrespective of how good they are, it’s difficult for them to gather votes.
Elections in India aren’t about policies. People hardly scan through the manifesto of the party they are voting for. Did you read BJP’s 2014 election manifesto? Or INC’s?
[BJP Election manifesto: Click Here]
[Congress Election Manifesto: Clik Here]
People want leaders who can ‘speak to them’ and ‘speak for them’. If their answers address insecurities, hits the nail on the actual needs of the masses and simplifies the problems to deliver a quick-solution, then that’s the kind of leader they believe in.
When Donald Trump says, he’ll build a wall to keep immigrants out, people who actually know how big the border is, might find it ridiculous. But not all of them. When someone like Modi says, demonetization affected the ‘corrupt’ more than the poor, people will believe him. Be it Trump or Modi, or any other politician, it is about finding those simple solutions that can make people believe them.
Coming back to Irom Sharmila and being blunt, her sacrifice doesn’t mean anything to the people in that constituency. She was on a hunger-strike for years to get her demands accepted. People might assume that she won’t be able to get the work done.
Look at what happened with Kejriwal. His image, even when it is clean, is associated with Dharna and cribbing. Occasionally, he raises some valid points in his criticism but his image has already been made.
Same goes with Rahul Gandhi. His image is that of a fool and is popular as Pappu. How will people take him seriously? Even supporters of Congress cannot defend him with the same zeal like a Bhakt or Aaaptard does, because of this. No one wants an association with anyone who makes them appear to be another fool.
Of course, it doesn’t take more than a good investment in PR to change your image. Maybe an Adani/Ambani on their side might help ?

How did BJP Win UP? (Or other states)

Even without being a BJP supporter, I can clearly count their poll promises on my fingers. Promises which they declared before elections with hopes of making it good when they get power. They have been successful in getting their message across. Specific message of “15 lacks”, “Jailing Scam-tainted ministers and even Robert Vadra”,“Making sure Pakistan gets a strong message” and a long list of other promises.

From an election-stand-point, it clearly does not matter, whether those promises will ever be fulfilled or will be termed as another Jumla. BJP, mostly thanks to Amit Shah, has figured out the template for election victories. He has busted the myth of the “Muslim Vote”. At the same time, he’s been successful in orchestrating a consolidation of Hindu-vote by giving Developments as well as the “fear of the growing minority” as primary motivators.

Vote-bank politics isn’t restricted to India and is done worldwide. Every party happens to do it and blames the other for it. When Congress, SP, or BSP was trying to hold on to its loyal caste base, BJP went one up, and consolidated them on religious lines, instead of caste.

And no, it isn’t a one-election strategy but a concerted effort that they’ve driven for years. RSS, Bajrang Dal or VHP, are all separate and non-political entities, which have been on the ground working tirelessly to join all the castes together.

Inherently human beings have programmed themselves to be part of a homogeneous group. Groups, separated by National boundaries, regions, linguistically, faith, caste, color, etc. Over time, we all learn/realize, we are essentially the same. Humans. But this journey of realization, overcoming the varied differences, is long. On the back of our minds, we see ourselves as separate and occasionally superior (as well). There’s a constant tussle between what we’ve been made to believe and what we should, based on our experiences and education.

You must be thinking, why am I telling you all this? Just bear with me as I paraphrase.

We are a divided lot. A large section is even racist! But everyone’s evolving to not appear as that racist bigot. But, when an ideology touches upon our fear or makes us envision scary future, for example, Muslim population growth or influence of ISIS, we’re taken aback, and this reason sticks. Irrespective of how far away from reality it might be.

When a reference to Shamshan vs Qabrastan or Electricity in Diwali vs Ramzaan is being made, it isn’t something that hasn’t been said or thought before. This only confirms the existent thought of favoritism to one community. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. The confirmation bias is strong enough to make it believable.

And that has essentially worked well for the BJP in getting its message across. Of course, good PR and media management, and a very vast Social media network has contributed to that as well. The proper messaging directed towards their target audiences worked.

Our anxiety and FOMO, along with the Fake news machinery, no doubt, contributes to this as well.

The opposition to BJP, couldn’t even make use of Demonetization which affected everyone across the country. BJP was successful in making people believe “it was for the good”.

The regional players need to come out of the bubble of remaining limited to their supposed “stronghold”. No one is going to watch a Ranji Match when a t20 is on, bro!

We don’t live in times when “this should be ideally done” works. Figuring out “what would work” is key. Do you think a deodorant would sell if they were to advertise it as “controlling body odor” or when it makes “women want men”, it’d sell more?

After effects of Demonetization

How long has it been since Demonetization ? 4 months!

Apart from the politics of Demonitization, taking credit or transferring blame or disowning it, we’ve seen quite a lot. In the years since this government came to power with a whopping majority, this has been the biggest move by them, before GST ‘kick’ed in.

So, what were the immediate effects of Demonitization?

No Discrimination: There wasn’t any discrimination in how people suffered. Sure, it varied, if one had jugaad or the lack of it.

Increased Awareness: More than anything demonetization gave us a lot of awareness. I had hardly bothered about knowing how much a card swipe actually cost! The hidden charges were finally out in the open and when I finally added it all up. Woah!

Savings Opportunity: I realized why people say that paying with cash helps in keeping track of your money. I guess we aren’t as ‘digitally sound’ as we’d like to be. Stopped spending

Increased Patriotism: What numerous JP Dutta movies couldn’t do, Demonitization and their fans surely have. Standing in line like how the Jawans at the border, gives me a similar feeling. I mean, if they are not complaining, why should we? Can we not do just this?

Becoming Responsible: Before “D” happened, I hardly used to carry cash. No, not because of “making India a cashless economy” but just out of laziness.  I mean, who’ll go to ATMs, unless there’s an urgent need! Over the months, I’ve become responsible. I now keep extra cash with me, just in case I run out of it, and the ATM sign says, “No Cash”!

Knowing your neighborhood: And now, I know the locations of innumerable ATMs spread across Kormangala that I can give you directions to it sitting at home. I should thank my landlord for accepting only cash payments for gaining this much knowledge.

Still, old habits die hard, right? Today, when the POS machine failed while paying at a restaurant, I had to shell out the entire cash out of my wallet. Probably I’ll have to visit the ATM soon, as the guy down the street selling groceries who was advertising, “PAYTM accepted” a few weeks back, says, “Bhaiya, Cash dena hota”. 

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