December 30, 2016

Visualizing a New India 2017- Episode 1: Speeding Up Indian Judiciary

2017 is just few hours ahead; Every New year we make certain resolutions and keep some of them. We start with new aspirations and realign our goals. Therefore, it is time that we visualize a new India, without corruption, efficient technologically, where everyone is delivered timely justice and every individual has access to school and education. This is the first and foremost blog of my New Year series "Visualizing a New India" where I brainstorm ideas and innovations to India's long drawn problems. 

"The execution of law is more important than making them," said Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence. His statement couldn't have been truer if seen in context with the current state of Indian judiciary. The judicial system in India lags behind with millions of cases queued up thanks to inadequate infrastructure and vacant seats. A swift justice delivery system is as important as the law itself. No doubt, any law holds redundant unless its violators are punished. Therefore, here are some steps that can be implemented to speed up the Indian judiciary.

Petty Offenses- Minimizing Time Wastage in Courts

There are a number of petty offenses which eat up a lot of time of courts. The Indian Penal Code prescribes a special procedure for such petty offenses, which asks the court to send a fine letter along with the summoning to the accused. This means that in case the accused doesn’t wish to participate in the judicial trial, he/she can simply pay the fine and the case would be taken back. However, this only applies for ‘petty offenses’ which refers to offenses with accusations of less than 1000 rupees. This limit can be extended to, say a 10000 rupee limit. There are thousands of people who would prefer paying the 10k fine rather than getting into the never-ending, lethargic judicial process which would itself cost them more than their fine. Taking such a measure would enable the court to zero down on the time spent on such petty cases and hence, concentrate on more important cases.

Pre-trial Hearing- Justice by Negotiation

The concept of pre-trial hearing must be implemented in the Indian judiciary for reducing time wastage in courts. A pre-trial hearing, typically, happens when the prosecutor wants to place a plea bargain to the accused. However, in context of the Indian judiciary, the purview of a pre trial hearing can be slightly altered. Cases must be made to pass through a pre trial session where a junior judge or retired judge acting as mediator tries to find a negotiable deal between the parties involved in the case. If both the sides of the court case reach an agreement, then the trial is suspended and the judicial time is saved. Encouraging such a system would further help reduce the review cases in higher courts as the case is being solved by agreement. However, in order to restore the credibility of judiciary, it is important that the cases where a pre trial agreement is not reached or the agreement reached is later disputed; the trial is allowed to commence or be reinstated.   

Specialization of Judges- Better and Faster Conflict Resolution

A system must be developed which recognizes judges and categorizes them as per their expertise into different categories like marriage, murder, kidnapping, corporate tax, etc. Court cases related to divorce must preferably go to the judge specialized in marriage. This would help in hastening up the process as the judge would be well-aware of the laws and previous rulings of his/ her expertise area. This would not only make the functioning more efficient but also qualitatively better. When I discussed such a proposal with my friends, one of them did not like the idea because that he believed that would lead to an imbalance of cases, with one judge having very high workload and the other being very free. He had clearly misunderstood me. When I write about specialization of judges, I mean to say that the philosophy of specialization must be followed and not a law of specialization. Therefore, in case of a dispute over say, divorce the case must preferably go to the marriage judge; however that doesn’t mean it cannot be heard by other judges.

Case Management- Better Categorization

There are numerous instances where important cases such as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case weren’t ruled because the court was too busy going over petty and less important cases. Therefore, it is extremely important that some cases are prioritized over others and must be carried forward at a faster rate. Such categorization is though a hugely subjective task and would require qualified manpower; however the task can be made more objective by providing simple guidelines. For example, cases under the category of ‘rape’ must be prioritized over cases in the category of ‘theft.’ A priority list can be prepared.

Secondly, under such categorization, cases which are similar or litigations about the same thing can be grouped and heard together or in parallel. Thirdly, it is very interesting that a huge number of cases lagging in the courts are those amongst state governments, central government and other institutions of the government. Another institution under the judiciary can be built to deal with intergovernmental cases so that the frontend judicial system can wholly focus on matters involving the citizens.  

Concluding Notes

One can go on and on reforming the archaic judicial procedures and ideas in India which have changed a little since the British raj. Some believe that the Lok Adalats which are currently held once or twice a year must be made permanent institutions. Others pitch for the idea of e-courts where disputes can be instantly solved by negotiation with the help of an online mediator. A lot of people believe that the number of holidays must be reduced and the courts must function for more than 250 days if not 365. Some critics suggest that the courts can be made to function 24x7 so as to get more time for trials. However, prerequisite to all these reforms is the need to fill in the vacancies in the judicial system. There are only about three-quarters of judges working out of the total required number. It would be wrong to simply say that the vacancies must be filled as more than just filling the vacancies, what is important is that the vacancies are appropriately filled.

Unarguably Indian judiciary even though slow and sluggish, is largely unbiased and has so far, retained its credibility. Only a few cases exist where the court decisions were challenged by undemocratic means and not accepted. Therefore, my only fear remains that in the haste to fill up the vacancies, the Indian judiciary doesn’t compromise on its credibility and quality. No doubt, justice delayed is justice denied but swift justice at the cost of no real justice doesn’t seem to be a very convincing idea to me.

Thank you for reading and keep on checking FasciNative for the next episodes!

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December 21, 2016

A Visit to Kota- Coaching, Lifestyle, Culture and Business

This week I happened to visit the town of Kota in Rajasthan. Before I move on, let me make myself very clear- I am not studying in Kota but just happened to visit the town. Nor do I intend to go to Kota for my higher studies and so, all my observations are that of a visitor, not a resident which I am sure would be uglier than my romanticized experience.

If you take the name of Kota in front of any Indian guy, the first thing he would link Kota with is a coaching hub with innumerable prep classes for engineering and medical colleges. Not that there is anything wrong with the linkage, but apart from that, Kota is also known for a special stone found there called Kota stone which make themselves visible much before you enter the coaching city. The seven hour long journey from Indore to Kota was the worst that I have ever been on, with only a few good food joints and miserable roads. I wasn't sure how such a remote town ever developed into a hub from where students from across the country came.

But as soon as we entered the city of Kota, our hunger and drowsiness drowned into the excitement and energy that we experienced. It was quite abrupt. One moment we were in a jungle and the next, we were in the town faced by huge structures on both our sides. My perception of Kota as a rusty-dusty town was busted by the sight of a huge empire besides the city mall, as huge as a 5 star hotel. The very sight of the building gave me an idea of the hugeness of the whole coaching 'industry' but then we took a right as we were to visit Allen first.

The Champion Managers- Allen Career Institute 

And so with the help of Google Maps and some sense of direction, we reached a gully, Not an ordinary one but a gully where on both sides we had Allen campuses with different names all starting with 'S.' It seemed as if the whole gully had been bought by Allen. And the few other plots which did not have Allen coaching institutes, had Allen hostels. Everyone in that gully was in a grey uniform boasting their 'Allen' logo. The whole street seemed as crowded as a chowpatty with some students entering one of the many institutes, and others exiting the institutes to go back to their hostels. We finally reached the head office. The head office had a beauty of its own. You could see about 200-300 students sitting in the veranda but not a single noise. Each one of them was studying and not even one of them was talking. I compared this with the noise that is created when a mere 30 student class in my school is asked to study. 

I got into a conversation with some students I found there. One student told me that he had 260 students in his class. Always having studied in a 30 student class and personally tutored, the number scared me. But what was more scary was the cost of it. Each student paid approximately 1.5 lacks every year which when multiplied by 250 (for the sake of easier calculations) gives 3.75 crore rupees. And Allen was running 8 such batches simultaneously at each of their 15 centers. And do not forget that this was only for their IIT-JEE division, medical and junior division not added and other centers (outside Kota) not added. This was unimaginably huge, it was a multimillionaire company in its own sense.  

What was even more startling was that not even one student I talked to was dissatisfied with Allen. I was wondering how a coaching institute could manage, discipline and teach 66 thousand students every year at a single place, yet recognizing and categorizing the brilliant ones and reshuffling them. Allen was truly, a champion manager. Inspite of the grand number they were serving to, they upheld their discipline and morals.  

The Big Arrogant Empire- Resonance

Remember, the huge empire beside the city mall? Our next stop was to be the same building. It was the huge boastful empire of Resonance. It seemed that unlike Allen, Resonance did not believe in buying numerous small plots of lands but making one large empire, which was so huge and beautiful from the outside. The building was a brand of its own, with the Resonance logo embedded in every part of it, ranging from the shape of the gate to the pillar at the entrance of the building.

But when we entered, we were to be met by an unimaginable site of more than 3000 cycles, meticulously parked in rows and columns. It was an exciting view as I had not seen so many cycles at one place ever before. While my parents were having a conversation with the receptionist at Resonance, I just went inside to have a look at the building and by chance a class was going on. I could see the classroom filled over its capacity with more than 200 people sitting on the benches and an additional 50 students sitting on chairs they had kept in the alley and everywhere else they got space. One child sat just at the juncture of the class and the corridor. Had someone even sneezed, he would have been pushed out of the class. And then a bell rung and there was a sudden influx of students from all directions. I was pushed from all directions. The site was horrific and inspiring at the same time. I became nervous and rushed back to the reception or else I would have got dragged with the flow of the crowd.
Resonance was mighty big. Honestly speaking, its atmosphere scared me. It was like a railway station inside with loads of people going in all directions and shops and canteens selling refreshments. Though I think it would be wrong to make any interpretations out of a couple of minutes spent, but my gut feeling told me that it wasn't the kind of disciplined coaching institute Allen was. 

The Kota Difference

The greatness of this place is not just due to the massiveness of the coaching industry there but because of its culture and atmosphere. The kind of atmosphere that you get to experience in Kota, pushes you to study more and work harder. The healthy competition helps you stretch your limits. And if in case you are among the top 20-30 students that they have, they will train you with special efforts, organize extra classes for you, provide you with extra material, extra resources and make the best faculties available at a personal level. This is because if in case they recognize the potential in you to be among the top 10 or top 100 scorers, they would make you work harder and harder as they are motivated towards getting better results. 

The Kota lifestyle and culture plays a very important role in producing sharp brains. The kind of culture where coaching institutes keep their centres open throughout night so that students can study and you can see crowds studying even after midnight. All major coaching classes and hostels are concentrated in a very small area. No one in Kota wastes time on travel. You can easily get a hostel just in front of your coaching class because of the huge number of hostels available. 
However, as every coin has two sides, Kota has some cons as well. Because of the crowd in Kota, you might get lost in case you aren't focused and motivated to do well. In that case, the consequences might be worse and no wonder, a number of students end up deteriorating their performance after going to Kota. Surviving in Kota requires a lot of energy and determination and you need to work with perseverance. 

Wrapped by Education- How Education Fuels Business in Kota?

The society, lifestyle and business environment in the city are all centered around the coaching industry. When we asked a local where we could find a PG (paying guest arrangement) in the city, he said, "Sir, pura Kota hi PG hai." (The whole city is a PG). The interesting thing about the city is that every normal household has commissioned 5-10 rooms in their own homes and earn money by offering students accommodation in these rooms. Other smaller houses offer PGs. Moreover, the competition between hostels has led to more standardization. Every hostel has a more or less same package, inclusive of food, laundry and cleaning but exclusive of electricity cost. Every room in almost all Kota hostels had their own electricity meter where the student is charged as per the electricity used. The cost of the package, though, widely differs depending on the quality of rooms and food. In fact, it goes right from a mere three to four thousand rupees to twenty five to thirty thousand rupees. There are hostels that are miserable in condition and others which are no less than a three star hotel with their own club and screen in the canteen. One of my uncles who went to Kota to study and passed out of IIT- Delhi joked,"If someone chooses to stay in such luxurious hostels, he would not be able to survive in the miserable IIT hostels." In order to facilitate and encourage outstation students' admission and stay, many associations have been formed by the coaching institutes to maintain quality standards. 

Image result for roomkartIndians are known for their entrepreneurial mind. You say opportunity and you will see an Indian making business. Same applies to Kota where a number of people have come up with innovations and business model fueled by the influx of students in Kota every year. One such example is "Roomkart" which is an app providing information about hostels and PGs along with a 360 degree view for students coming to Kota and lets you book it online. Another example is the city mall which  is located right in the middle of the city and runs only and only on students. Can you imagine people selling books and textbooks in entertainment malls? Kota is the place where it all happens. In fact, you can see loads of canopies and stalls selling tabs with loaded classroom videos and exercises. You could buy one tab and start learning at your own pace or catch up on some concept you have missed in your class. 

The coaching business in Kota is inter-woven in the society and economic character of the city. Students and coaching have not only become a brand for Kota but greatly influence the culture and lifestyle of Kota. Every interaction in the city reflects on the kind of mania JEE and AIIMS have become in this country. No wonder, the town of Kota succeeded to excite me. It was so different from all others. The town was pretty small yet the unimaginably huge in the number of students it welcomed every year. It was amazing in a sense and depressing in the other. My words are no justice to the massiveness of the students and coaching institutes in Kota. You would only understand when you visit.   
Thank You and Regards!

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November 14, 2016

The Big Week- Demonetisation, Rock On 2 and Trump

The last week has been extremely eventful. The media hasn't been short of content. Trump's victory to the White house shocked everyone. But how did this happen and what does it mean to the World and America? In India, Modi's live telecast at prime time on Indian television on the day of US elections, overshadowed the big event. Demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes in Indian market has brought mixed reactions. The demonetisation has hit hard on all Indian businesses including Bollywood. No wonder, the much anticipated Rock On 2 is doing poor at the box office. Is it because of demonetisation or the movie itself? This post brings to you my observations of how these big changes have affected the on ground realities and my comments on the chaotic, energy filled environment!

The Second White Revolution- Demonetization 

 “The surplus of jokes and memes about the Modi demonetization surprise proves that unemployment is a larger problem than black money.” “Anna Hazare is changing his name to Anna Do Hazare.” These jokes flooded social media and became the talk of the town, all thanks to the *surprise* demonetization scheme of Modi which overshadowed the US elections. 

The whole scheme on the outside is great but wouldn’t help the corruption problem of the country unless, the whole system is made stricter post December. Else the black money would again build up in a couple of decades to prove the scheme redundant. 

No doubt, I stand in support of this measure but what comes with it is de trop confusion and chaos. Imagine an uneducated illiterate person for whom the complications of the whole process are beyond comprehension. Think about the third of Indian population which doesn’t have access to banks! An auto-rickshaw wala when asked if old 500 and 1000 notes would be accepted told me, “हज़ार  छोड़ो , दो हज़ार के नए नोट भी नहीं चल रहे आज कल(Leave 1000, even the new 2000 notes are not being accepted)  The poor and the uneducated, yet, don’t believe in the new notes as they don’t understand it. Reconciling belief in the ugly, new 2000 notes is a herculean task in itself. 
I don’t wish to negate the positive air about the whole anti-corruption thing. But I hope the time wasted on queuing up for long hours turns out to be worth something. Desperate times, Desperate measures!

Rock On 2- Lacked the ‘Majik’

For me and many other Farhan Akhtar fans, Rock On 2 was a much anticipated movie. But to my disappointment, it turned out to be a slow and an aimlessly-going movie. The sound tracks were no match to the excellent Rock On I album and the script and humour failed to meet the high standards set by the first edition of the franchise.

 However, the larger error was that the movie overdid the Rock On franchise. It no longer remained the enjoyable, fun movie to relive life but has been transformed into a slow emotional drama with deep and sometimes, unbearable philosophical dialogues. Moreover, the two new additions to the ‘Majik’ band (Jia and Uday) had poor performances on screen. Somehow, I was disheartened as I went with much higher expectations. Farhan Akhtar has always rendered great movies and is known for putting in a lot of creativity into his movies but this one is a low on his graph. It wasn’t made with the same passion and conviction. 

TRiUMPhant- The US Presidential Elections

With radical, controversial and bold comments and plans to make a wall along the border with Mexico, Donald Trump unexpectedly won the US elections to much remorse. As per my general conversation with my small base of American friends (majorly students who came to India in intercultural exchanges and people I have met during international events), there was and is a negative sentiment about Trump. Even the larger and more diverse base of exit polls predicted a victory for Hilary. Therefore, the big question is how did the unexpected happen?

Many people would tell me, “It was a flawed election at the end of the day. No wonder, a Richey-rich industrialist won the elections. It is an oligarchy of the rich, you know.” I wouldn’t say it is entirely unbelievable.

But the major reason behind Trump’s win was that the people are bored of conventional politicians who are diplomatic, pretend to be the good-ideal-rational-guy. The people are looking for a ruthless, strong and straightforward person. This shift is very evident from the growing popularity of radical Right politicians in Europe.

Hilary tried to play conventionally with rational policies, uncontroversial speeches, love towards refugees and being the all-good person. On the other hand, Trump captured the irrational yet, true feelings of the Americans. His comments on Islam are well rooted into every non-immigrant American’s mind and despite what his/her rational mind might believe, the truth is that there is a natural disgust towards Islam among Americans. His comments on women are, pretty disgustingly, what a typical American man feels. Therefore, people could relate to his comments, however radical they may be. Thus Trump won.

Trump’s victory brings a great deal of uncertainty to the American politics and economic policy which is negative for the growth of the States. At the same time, Trump brings hope for betterment in US-Russia relations, the former cold war rivals.

No wonder, there is a sense of antagonism in the air about Donald Trump winning. In one of the events I attended this week (in India), the anchor ended up saying America doesn’t deserve a democracy! But it is time that we accept the unbelievable; the guy has made a fool out of all news agencies and their exit polls and is now to reign the World’s superpower. Let the trumpet triumph!

My remorseful obituary for the old beautiful 500 and 1000 notes which are to be replaced by the ugly pink notes, a goodbye to the coolest president America has ever had and my condolences with those people who are just tying their laces to leave for the theater to watch  Rock On 2. 
Yours Truly, Abhimanyu.

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June 19, 2016

The Tragedy of Commons- Answer to All Major Problems

Every country wants to build a nuclear arsenal while threatening world peace is in the interests of no country.(I did not say North Korea). Everyone installs an air conditioner to fight the high temperatures while ACs release CFCs (chloro fluoro carbons) which in turn increase temperature by contributing to global warming. No one wants parks, public places to be littered but we all litter, urinate in public places. These contradictions seem extremely surprising to me, and I became curious. Some browsing and reading helped me find the explanations to these contradictions.  
The answer lies in one of the most  interesting and lesser known theories of rogue economics. It is called the tragedy of commons. 

What is the Tragedy of Commons? 

Forster Lloyd
Tragedy of commons says that in a situation where multiple individuals act individually, they will deplete a shared resource, even when it is no one's interest. In 1832, the Commons in England started depleting due to overgrazing by nomads who fed their cattle. They were Commons, a shared property. It was in no one's interest that the grass in the Commons were ruined as logically, each nomad would want to sustain the grass in the Commons for future grazing. But the commons were being ruined.

This was explained by Lloyd, a political economist from Oxford. He said that adding a cattle to a herd would yield the whole profit to the nomad but the loss of pasture would be 'commonized' among all herdsmen. Lloyd, hence explained that, since the profit earned by the nomad by adding a cattle to his herd was much more than the nomad's share of the common loss of pasture. Therefore, a nomad was incentivized to add a cattle to his herd even when destroying the pasture wasn't in his interests. This was the birth of the Theory of Tragedy of Commons. 
To me it seems magic as it satisfactorily explains all problems in the World. Let's take for instance the depleting population of fishes. Earth's fish populations are owned by no one, so they are indeed a shared resource. Multiple fishermen compete for this resource. Each fisherman would catch as many fishes as possible to maximize profit but it is also in the fisherman's interests to leave enough fishes in the water so that they can repopulate and there are fishes left to be caught in the future. So logically, each fisherman must catch only a sustainable amount of fishes. But unfortunately there persists a lack of trust. A fisherman, acting responsibly, limits the amounts of fishes he catches, he would probably suffer a great deal of loss in the market, if others do not. So, just because each fisherman feels that the other would catch more fishes than their sustainable share, every fisherman tries to catch as many fishes as possible, depleting the fish population. Lack of trust is the problem here. 

Building Trust to Overcome the Tragedy of Commons- Successes and Failures

Let us take another example. the race of building a nuclear arsenal. The US built its nuclear arsenals. In response and due to the lack of trust, Russia built a mightier nuclear arsenal. This set into effect a a race of building nuclear arsenals. More countries build there nuclear arsenals, threatening world peace which is no one's interest. Every time a nuclear arsenal is developed, it poses a risk on the whole world (Earth- a shared resource). But we try and overcome these problems by building trust like for example the nuclear non proliferation treaty was signed to resist the proliferation of nuclear weapons by evolving trust. But the time when even a single Party breached the trust, the proliferation of nuclear weapons resumed.
However, it is worth listing some successes too. The US and Russia signed a START Treaty to reduce their nuclear weapons. They evolved trust and have successfully reduced their respective arsenals to less than half. Market associations, associations like UNGC for sustainability also work successfully by evolving trust and overcoming the tragedy of commons. 

I spent my vacations in a small town called Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh  where one of my relatives runs a medical shop on the road of the district  hospital. There is a very stiff competition due to the concentration of medical stores in the region. The shopkeepers used to work day and night, 7 days a week to earn money. To tackle this problem, they formed a association and decided that only one shopkeeper will open his/her shop on a Sunday. Chance-by-chance each shopkeeper gets a chance to open his/her shop on Sunday. The consumer was assured that they get medicines while the shopkeepers were assured that they could enjoy there Sundays as every shopkeeper would have to work on only one Sunday. They built trust and it worked.
The objective of this post was not to appeal for a drive against global warming or nuclear proliferation but just wanted to share the fascination of this concept of tragedy of commons with you all. If you think this helps  in solving the aforementioned problems, well, that is completely coincidental.
Thanks for reading!

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April 14, 2016

Travel Diaries: Bhopal- Moderating Debate, Challenges Faced

I got a call from an organization I had previously worked with. I missed it. Called back, they missed it! Finally after a series of such uncalled calls, I was talking to a guy in Mumbai. He informed about a conference that was scheduled to happen in Bhopal three days from the day they called and they asked me to chair it! Glory! 

In 2013, I had attended my first United Nations simulation in Indore. In 2014, when the organization came back to Indore, I applied for the post of a Vice-Chairperson. After a  set of interviews, I got selected and the conference happened. Here, I am in 2016. Never applied for the post in Bhopal but they say that I was recommended and so was offered the post even without application. So I accepted the offer. 

The procrastinator in me brought me to a situation when I had my tickets done for the next day but absolutely no preparation. But, thankfully, in Tim Urban's language, the Panic Monster helped me prepare just well in time. 

The next day, I was there in Bhopal. On the first day, with only an opening ceremony planned, my  role was largely ceremonial. But for the next two days, we were to conduct and moderate sessions as a chairperson. Usually in a mock UN, the participants are divided into multiple committees each simulating a particular agency of the United Nations and discussing and debating upon multiple agendas. A chairperson is appointed to each of these committees and the Chair has to moderate debate, direct it into the right direction and make the experience of the delegates more enriching and intriguing. So to sum it up, I was looking forward with great anticipation to two days of enriching debate and competitive discussions to find solutions to global issues. 

Overcoming my Fears

So there I was in my committee room, standing almost half in size. My greatest fear was that I was going to chair participants who were about 4 or 5 years elder to me. People looked at me and I could see that initial surprise, subsequent mockery and gradual awe on their faces. When I used to be a participant, I usually observed that the participants often make fun of their chairs like students  in class try to make a fool out of their teachers. I feared that now that I stood on the other side of table, I would be subjected to the same reaction considering that a large number of people were elder to me. But then I knew there was no space, no time to think about it. I started with the first session. 
I told myself that even though I was junior to them in age, I was placed higher in the hierarchy. My unrealistic arguments never convinced my rational self. The only thing that gave me confidence was the self conviction that I had researched very well and had done a lot of preparations. So I came over my fears and spoke up. Thank god, the awe on their faces remained. 

A couple of sessions passed and I realized that they were a lot of more professional than I thought, even though they were first timers in mock UN. They did not ever bully me, in fact, respected the hierarchy. The environment was very positive. In fact, by the end of the day, they started addressing me as 'Sir!' 

 But how did this happen? 

Mr. Herb Cohen,
World's Best Negotiator
World's best negotiator, Herb Cohen, has an answer to this- Power is Perception. We have much more power than we often realize and it is often important to project yourself as a powerful and influential ( even if you aren't) person in order to gain respect and subsequently win such situations. Introspection tells me that the reason the delegates actually respected me and held me high in their perception is because I never let my fears come on my face. In fact, I tried and stayed aloof, not inaccessible or unfriendly, but aloof. I never said but always projected that it was I who was going to chose the award winners. 
Having said that, the power-is-perception strategy in itself did not gain me all the respect but at the end of the day the content and learning did. While the power-is-perception strategy cannot gain you respect, not practicing it could have probably lose respect. 

Challenges Faced

Now, usually a committee constitutes of two kind of people- one, who have been to such debates and UN simulations before and hence have an experience. They might not necessarily be the most reasonable and logical participants but they generally, are the best negotiators. They try and use their expertise asymmetry to bring people on their side. And hence, they usually speak with a lot more confidence. Also, very often, an experienced participant tries to dominate the committee and its proceedings.   

Two, those people who have never  been to such a simulation before and hence, are unsure of what they have to do. They might be the most intelligent and smart delegates but they lack confidence and hence, even after being qualitatively better than the experienced ones, they do not speak up due to the fear of mockery. Their suggestions usually get suppressed by the dominating delegates. 

Moderating Debate!
Balancing between the two kinds of delegates is the greatest challenge that I faced. In my committee what happened was that the set of experienced delegates got together. When someone even dared to stand against them, the dominating participants used to attack them personally with remarks like 'Grow up! You are a kid now' for short heighted people and ''Fatty and dumb" for fat people. Out of the some who resist this personal attack and still stood against the dominating participants, the next degree of domination is making fun of their proposals. The dominating participants mock on the new delegates' completely sensible and logical suggestions and project as if they are senseless. 

Result- Very few participants dare to express any disagreement with the experienced participants due to the fear of making a fool of oneself. And the some who do, finally gets discouraged by the attacks and counterattacks of the dominating debaters and no more remain active in the debate. And even after observing all of it the Chair remains confined to his duty- moderation! 

So, I tried my best to stay confined to my mandate and yet, help the nervous first-timers by actually subtly but very effectively backing and adding legitimacy to their sensible suggestions by a tool called- Rephrasing. The tool worked with considerable success and resulted in the formation of a new alliance of the new delegates against the dominating participant alliance. 

But finally, its success was limited to in-committee debate. I could not and cannot moderate the interactions that happen in lunch and in breaks. So the block of the first-timers formed gradually disintegrated because of the interactions behind the scene. Left to observe, I saw the dominating delegate persuade the delegates of the other bloc to get into their alliance. The weaker ones were easily persuaded and as everyone saw that the newly formed Alliance was disintegrating, a negative environment formed and everyone left the first-timers alliance as momentum gained. 

I could see the leader of the first timers' Alliance trying extremely hard to get people back in her Alliance and win over. Continuous failures led to a great depression and she broke down. She was slowly losing hope. Well, I was always a secretive observer present everywhere but still nowhere. 

On seeing her miserable state, I went beyond my mandate and tried to pacify her. I told her that it matters but it does not matter that much that she need to cry. She was somewhat convinced and on my request, she still agreed to lead that now 4 member Alliance (only 4 members were left as all others had been persuaded by the dominating delegates.)

The break ended and the next session started. I was told and I listened pretending innocent as if I never knew, that there are just 4 people left in the first-timers Alliance and the rest had gone to the dominating delegates Alliance. 

The whole committee gradually moved towards its logical conclusion and the 4 member-Alliance failed to receive a 2/3rd majority and their proposal failed. The dominating participants get their proposals passed and they win. 

And as I saw the disparity persist, all that I could do was condemn. While I still regret and feel guilty that I could not keep the committee balanced and minimize the disparity, I sometimes think that persuasion is a skill and since the experienced participants mastered that skill, they deserved to win. Regardless of all these counters, I have always felt guilty of letting someone in my committee go to the extent of crying. On the other hand, my mandate clearly did not allow me to influence the debate. I was left with no choice but to let time fly and leave its shadow behind.....   

Regards, Abhimanyu! 
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February 26, 2016

Singapore Flash- A Photo Album

On 10th January, at about 1:00 a.m. in a Jet Airways flight which might be somewhere above the Indian Ocean making its way to Mumbai, I got this amazing idea of reconciling the moments I had spent in the last ten days in Singapore. So when the whole world had fallen asleep, I though of writing. But I had nothing to write on. So this blog post is a result of my cluttered notes on some Jet Airways paper-napkins. So let us go touring!    

Singapore Port from the top of Merlion!

Random Notes

On the streets of Universal! 
I walked down the road to the bus stop! It had just rained but nowhere could I see water logging. As I reached the bus stop, my uncle who had been living in Singapore since a decade checked his smartphone to check when the next bus arrives. While he checked his phone, I looked at the other side of the road, there were a couple of very sophisticated road equipment which one usually doesn't get to see in India. The bus arrived and we were off to Sentosa Island at about 11:00 a.m. in the morning. We returned at 8:00 p.m. and voila, they had reconstructed the whole road! 

Singapore as a city seemed very interesting and impressive to me. I loved walking on the roads of Singapore, as they had a very consistent footpath unlike India where footpaths, cycle tracks are still a rare features. 

Get your eyes tricked? At Trick Eye Museum Singapore
The most amazing picture sets that will trick your eyes! 
In India we are endangered by the problem of pollution which we say is the result of growing industrialization. But Singapore, which is a first world country, doesn't have this problem. I wondered how Singapore maintained an air quality  cleaner than what one usually gets to breathe in India. We complain about traffic jams and long transit time in India. In Singapore, you do not get to see more than 10 cars weighting at any traffic signal. How does Singapore tackle the problem of excessive traffic?

 In Singapore, the widest road that you get is a 4 lane road. Therefore, they leave the rest of the space for green patches, which can be seen consistently throughout Singapore. These green patches are not only well maintained and tamed, but also beautifully landscaped. 

Fish! Fish! Everywhere!
Interacting with the most fascinating
sets of fishes in S.E.A Aquarium.
Second, very few people in Singapore own cars. Even the upper class travels in the very efficient metros and buses. Due to the efficiency of public transport (which I am later going to elucidate about in this post) and the high cost of parking a car, people prefer to not buy a car but use the seamless public transport. 

Third, all major places in Singapore have been joined by cycling and walking trails. As a result, people walk and cycle a lot. In my 10 day visit to Singapore, I walked more than my how much I usually do in India. It is interesting to observe that in India, conventional wisdom says that the less we walk and more we travel by a car, the higher standards of living we have. However, in Singapore, the richest of the rich walk down (and why will they not, it is so pleasant!) 

You are watching a show and then a plane comes right
in front of you from nowhere! The scale at which these shows
were organized is unimaginable! By the way,
Waterworks at Universal Studios!

Public Private Partnership

The Glorious Marina Bay!
Singapore is an excellent example of what we usually refer to in books and theories as Public Private Partnership. The mobilization of this concept of PPP has a great role in strengthening every aspect of lifestyle in Singapore. For example, their public transit system, which I have been so proudly mentioning. The bus stops and metro stations have been connected to all major places by strategic walking bridges and subways to encourage people to rely on public transport. Marina Bay, an architectural wonder is a private hotel that you can see in this picture with three towers and a long skyline. This hotel has a metro station, in its basement and a bus station inside it. Moreover, a walkway bridge joins the hotel's interior to public gardens constructed by the government. This not only becomes profitable for the Singapore government as all people travelling to Marina Bay, nearby gardens and other destinations at a walking distance from Marina Bay use public transport. But also this is profitable for the private hotel too as even though the public gardens and all other nearby public recreational facilities are not owned by the hotel but they become a feature of the hotel. Moreover a metro stop in their basement makes their hotel more accessible.  
Spot the ever revolving Universal globe!

Also, the fares for all public transport systems metros, buses and some cabs are paid through a common card. This card can not only be used to pay fares in buses and metros but also can be used to use and buy tickets for many other facilities in Singapore. Such a card integrates all transit systems and eases up the whole process. Also, such a card just has to be tapped on a designated device placed at the entrance of buses and trains. Therefore, it becomes a paperless system. The requirement of a ticket issuer and a ticket checker is cut in Singapore. But the greatest problem that such a card would face in any place of issue would be its mobilization. This has been ensured again by PPP. 7-Eleven having a very wide ranging network has been made centers for recharging these cars. These cards can be issued and recharged at all 7-Eleven stores. As a result, you can get a recharge outlet in every few kilometers. Moreover people who have to recharge their cards, look out for a 7- Eleven store and even if they don't enter the store to buy something, they end up buying something as they recharge their card. Therefore, the public private partnership model has been brought into execution at various aspects of life in Singapore and has definitely had a revolutionary effect on life standards in the positive sense. 

No Theft, No Crime, No Bypassing Systems! How? 

Desperate Times.......
My greatest astonishment (being an Indian) was that no one tried to bypass any laws or regulations or cheat bus drivers or bribe them. My first observation was that every place worked in a system starting from a Subway shop to a Cruise center. They had systems for even small things that we, Indians, tend to manage without any laid out systems. Everyone in Singapore had grown up following those systems and people do not even think of cheating or bypassing the system.

Though there systems are well in place with measures to prevent any cheating or bypassing, however a typical Indian might easily find ways to bypass such a system (like I did find, just too many). Therefore, even though it was relatively easy to bypass any of those systems no one did so and that brings me to my second observation- motive. Every theft, crime is driven by a motive. Bypassing systems are usually motivated by financial needs. But Singapore having a high GDP and low population, has a very high GDP per capita. Therefore, there general population is rich and even casual labourers earn enough. Therefore, they don't have a motive to commit any theft. 
But even if there might be some people who would have found ways to bypass systems and would have had a financial urge too, they do not indulge in such practices because of the fear of getting caught by the Singapore Police. We got a glimpse of this fear when we called for a taxi and the driver refuse to take 5 people in the taxi as 4 was the maximum number of people allowed to be taken in cars as per the Singapore law.

On the top of the World! Siloso Beach, Sentosa

The Dark Face of Sytematism

Spot the cheetah! The other one, please...
Singapore Zoo
How did they actually make such an organized system possible? Apart from having an educated and trained population, another facilitation of such a system is that they do not have pure democracy which means swifter decision making and faster executions. Second, they have a strictly censored press which helps in maintaining a positive environment, suppress dissents and make the place healthier and quieter.

Amidst the wild! Bird Park! 
Therefore, they are much more organized and systematic in their way of working and living than one gets to see in India. As said above, they have a system for almost everything which we, Indians, tend to manage without systems. As a result they are able to manage huge crowds very efficiently.  This is because they have clear instructions for everything. However, these very systems that enable them to cater to thousands of tourists have reduced creativity at individual level to almost zero. Since they have clear standard  instructions for each and every thing, they do not use their intelligence in day to day life. As a result even when there are merely three or four people waiting for a train, the whole process of queuing up is still not bypassed. However, it is interesting that this very dumbness of theirs has actually led to zero-like crime rates and negligible instances of breach of law.

Having a Birdly experience! Interacting in Virtual Reality
Singapore Science Centre
Therefore, on a concluding note, Singapore is an ideal vacation place because they have endless rides and fun places which you can go on exploring for months together. Moreover it is a very impressive place as in every few meters you get to see structures which you would have never seen before. Remarkably, not even one of the skyscrapers in Singapore is like the other. Therefore, Singapore is a well crafted city. However, India is a new adventure everyday just because it is not so organized and that is exactly where India's beauty lies. You might be elated after spending a week or so in Singapore but as I landed in Mumbai and started packing my paper-napkin notes, I realized that one living in Singapore might get bored getting ground in the same system each and every day while one living in India has an adventure each day!  
On a cruise! Unmissable experience...
Superstar Gemini
With love, Abhimanyu!