Social Responsibility

Update: This post has been edited for clarity and typos.

What prompted me to write this is another post shared by my friend on Google Reader. It talks about Sarabjit Singh, a woman who did not want her husband released in exchange for terrorist. Kudos to her! I really admire her because she put her country before herself and her family. I did not appreciate the post when the writer called another person, who was desperate to get her family back during Kandahar hijacking, an anti-national. It is becoming rather fashionable to call somebody anti-national. Be it cutting flag coloured cake, playing musical version of national anthem, or if it looks like someone’s leg is facing the national flag. There are lawyers who make a living out of it. I want to explain why demand or negotiating release of hijacked passengers in lieu of terrorist is not anti-national, but plain human. I know some views are controversial, please do not jump to conclusions before reading this post completely.

One of the jobs of the Govt. is to protect its citizens. The govt. is elected by the people, and consequently it is the job of the society to elect the right government. In other words, it is the society which takes care of itself. When plane is hijacked, the govt. failed in its duty to protect its citizens. So what is wrong with demanding the govt to secure the release of the passengers? It is the govt. which has failed and has to set things right. The society is very much entitled to demand this. It is very disappointing to see that a part of a society thinks otherwise. They speak as if it is duty of the hijacked passengers to die for the country.

It is very easy to judge the relatives who are facing the trauma as “anti-national” by others who have no experience dealing with such uncertainties. Everyone loves their country, most of us love ourselves more. That’s the fact. I am really appalled by the ease with which the author of the post judged the woman  as being anti-national. I bet the author has never been in situation where there was a gamble for his loved one’s life.

Many ask, “If we ‘give-in’ to the terrorists, wont it send the wrong signal to the terrorists that every time a plane is hijacked, they can pull another of their terrorist heroes back from prison?” My response is the following: If you are scared that that signal we sent that day makes them think that hijacking a plane is solution to their problems, haven’t you
already conceded that they will hijack again and there is nothing India can do to prevent that? Are you convinced that we can protect ourselves any more? This, to me, is the real felling of “giving in” to the terrorists.

In some sense, many think that govt. “gave up” to the terrorists. Here’s how I look at it: Had we remained stone hearted and let the passengers be killed, we are sending a signal that if we release a terrorist, we cannot catch him again, that we were very lucky to have caught him.

Lets assume that India has a reputation of storming the planes every time they are hijacked. Think for a moment, as a terrorist, what would you do? Would you attempt negotiation with the govt. from the hijacked plane? Or would you blow it up mid-air or against a tall building out of spite? I have a feeling this has been done before.

For once, before calling anyone anti-national, society ought to step into their shoes and look and the options before them. It is the fault of the government/society that the plane was hijacked. After the harm is done, society should try and rectify it. Not treat the victims like guinea pigs in a failed experiment and let them be killed by hijackers. The society has to take the responsibility of bringing them back alive.

Talking about social responsibilities, let me express my views on capital punishment as well. I am myself not sure about capital punishment, but there is one case where I am against it: in punishing serial killers. I was in favour of capital punishment before watching the movie ‘monster’, which portrays a life of a prostitute who becomes a serial killer out of circumstance. I am against capital punishment given out to psychopathic serial killers.

People don’t just “become” psychopathic serial killers. It is the society which makes them. It is the society which gives them tough choices and it is the society which treats them badly. When the results aren’t favourable, society wants to treat the person like a guinea pig and kill him. I dont like the ‘tax payer’s burden’ argument about keeping them in jail (when there is no hope for them to recover) either. It is the society which made them that way. From a moral point of view, society should pay for its failed experiment.

Another argument I have heard is that we all have lived in the same society, and we did not turn out to be serial killers. My simple answer is that every individual is unique, and if you cant respect that, you are the one who doesn’t deserve a place in society. Some favour death penalty for the ‘sentiments’ of victims’ families. I dont buy that because the decision which the family takes is an emotional one and not necessarily the rational one.

Moving a little away from the topic, people love to call those who have left the country for education or job as anti-national. IITians, and in last ten years, NITs, BITS etc, are the main targets. Let’s examine that claim as well.

Firstly, ‘the lakhs of rupees spent on an IITian’ argument. As an IITian, I can say that we were not put in luxury. We had to pay for everything from electricity bill to Rs 600 for renting a gown for the convocation to ‘security’ for the hostels. They subsidized the mess (which was horrible) up to Rs 8 per day per student which, I agree, is quite significant. But then who isn’t subsidized in India? Petrol is subsidized. Diesel is subsidized for farmers, but other people buy diesel cars anyway (they are real anti-nationals if you ask me 😛 ). Gas is subsidized to every household. Taking all of that into account, I am not sure if the subsidy for us is more significant than what is given to the rest of the country. Profs are paid for research and teaching us. Its their job and cannot be counted towards the “burden” of the tax payers. The only place where, I think, the lakhs of rupees figure makes sense is the licensing of the softwares for research. Sophisticated Labs and Labs Equipments are something which undergraduates seldom use. But, I am sure any research that is done in IITs and IISc comes back to nation as inputs for ISRO, DRDO etc. for India’s development. Most of research is done by PhD students who stay in country. I am damn sure the lakhs of rupees figures is not the true figure. The realistic figure, I believe, is a much reasonable amount. I do realize that rest of the colleges do not even get the minimal facilities that we “enjoy”. That only talks about govt. apathy.

Secondly, lets look at the reason why the “brain-drain” occurs. A student expected to pay back to country though research or through entrepreneurship. As far as research is concerned, it is known that hardly any importance is given to it in India. Expenditure towards research takes a back seat. Infrastructure in India is lacking. Who is responsible for that? Government/Society. How about entrepreneurship? India was a socialist country 20 years back. Little wonder that brain-drain was rampant back then. Today it’s, thanks to economic reforms, much less. Again its the government/society responsible for that. Calling people anti-national is doing society no good. There are very few who put their country ahead of their personal ambitions, they are truly amazing. Other are human, not anti-national.

Also, why is the responsibility of the chosen few to bring the country out of the mess it is in. What is the role of the people who judge others as anti-national? Isn’t that an indication of resigned society putting burden on a some of its members to bring them back on their feet.

Before calling anyone “anti-national” the society should learn its responsibility.

18 Replies to “Social Responsibility”

  1. “Also, why is the responsibility of the chosen few to bring the country out of the mess it is in.”

    Isnt it always the responsibility of the chosen few to bring about changes? By definition of ‘chosen few’. Or rather, what are the chosen few chosen for?

  2. I agree on the hijacking part. It is certainly a failure on the part of the government and the security agencies. It also hi-lites the fact that we cannot treat terrorism as a law and order problem and try to contain it. We need a much more elaborate plan to counter terrorism,

    Regarding capital punishment u should understand that it is awarded only in the rarest-of-rare cases. Even if I go and shoot a person for fun tomorrow I wont be given death peanlty. I will be only sentenced for life. Its only in cases where a person is responsible for many murders etc that he is awarded death penalty. Like the case of afzal guru or Rajiv’s assasins etc. The number is very less and none of them have been hanged because the issue goes to president and he never deceides……this whole thing about everybody being unique and society being responsible for all thats bad allmost legitamises crime. There is a reason for everything and every murder, but as a society at the macro-level we should deceide what is in the collective good of the society thats all.

  3. Nice one but a couple of points I don’t agree on:
    1. Hijacking is not govt.’s failure. Its not anyone’s responsibility. All it takes is a plastic knife to slit a throat :). I agree that relatives of the victims don’t become anti-national by not putting their country before their loved ones, but its not right to point fingers at govt when a plane gets hijacked.

    2. Undergraduate students are expected to take advantage of sophisticated lab & lab equipment. I don’t see any prof. saying “oh, you in 3rd year, sorry, the lab is only for m.techs”. We want to put peace in life, take the easiest way out. It does make us irresponsible when we don’t give our best, be it BTP or a 1-credit course.

  4. Did you know that Insti spends around Rs 5 lakh per month for electricity and most of the usage does not come from the hostels but from the labs in the academic section which often have AC 24 hrs a day?

    Irrelevant… but anyway… a good read da… I also agree… what anti-nationalism?? These people are quick to randomly point out stuff to say that people are anti-national, this that etc…

    “Ask not what your country can do, in a one world governmental zoo…”

  5. Hi,
    Nice post. I completely agree with you that it is only human to ask the govt to get back their family from the terrorists. After all, they are the family.

    Towards the end of your post, you started holding the society and the Government responsible for everything. But it is we who constitute both of them. In my opinion, it wrong to say that something is not your responsibility, but the governments’.

    With regards to IITs, I’ve heard that IITs get 70% of the total funding allotted towards education, including those allotted towards primary school education. By doing so, the government and hence the people are hoping that providing good education to one IITian would bring back more to the society than providing primary education to a hundred students(even more perhaps). One of the profs from elec told us in our first year that an average BTech costs insti about 1 lakh rupees per annum, whereas we pay only 40k as tuition fees. The rest 60k is funded by the govt.

    “As an IITian, I can say that we were not put in luxury. We had to pay for everything from electricity bill to Rs 600 for renting a gown…..” How could you say such a thing. We did enjoy a host of luxuries at a dirt price. We paid 500 bucks towards the hostel rent. I am sure that renting an apartment just outside our insti would cost you atleast a 1000 bucks per month. We were initially charged for the internet at 100Rs per month, I think the collection was stopped after a while. Anyways, even 100 bucks per month is nothing. Junta working in Bangalore now pay almost 1k towards internet with slower dload speeds. We had insti buses operating for 1Rs a trip…its a long list, and I _do_ think that these were heavily subsidized for us. Compare it to the UG system in the US da, nothing is subsidized. Don’t know how things are at your univ, but over here, UGs buy food from outside everyday! There are very few residencies with messing option, and they are horribly expensive. In fact, the residencies(hostels) themselves are not a part of the university, and are run privately and they cost almost as much as the apartments in the city(more, infact). Also their tuition fee is ~15k, with the standard of teaching, labs etc. the same as that of IITM(with reference to only the elec dept). And the discounts at coffee day and tiffanys which somehow a lot of IITians think is their birth right…

    “But then who isn’t subsidized in India?…” What are you trying to justify here? The discounts on petrol and gas is enjoyed by everyone(ok, not everyone, but a great chunk of population), and the money reqd. to offset this is generated from the same people through taxes etc. But with an IITian, the money is collected from everyone, but is spent only on a few. I am not saying that doing so is unfair, but the ones who did enjoy this privilege should be know that they are now “responsible”, responsible towards the society.

    I do not completely believe in the brain drain thing, and feel that a CS guy working for Microsoft, or Google or anything in the US is still contributing to India, and that his work in his company will trickle down into benefiting someone back home. My reply was not another “Mtech” reply asking you to goto India, open an ashram etc…(If any of the readers is offended by my prev statement, I apologize for it, I know its wrong on my part to stereotype all MTech junta), but to tell you that we did enjoy a host of facilities and that we have to pay it back(atleast, we are expected to).

    Do reply. I am sure you have something to say!


  6. @semi
    you are oba one of the best to lead shaastra. suppose you had not taken up the responsibility. is it right for me to call you anti-iitm??? what i am against is people calling someone anti-national for apparent reason
    i am not saying dont punish them. just not in favor of death penalty. any other correctional step (jail or treatment) is fine by me. what i am talking about is a very specific case of serial killers. in many countries, they are put to death
    whose responsibility is it then? and … do you really thin UG junta can use the lab fully. it takes 2-3 years before a phd student can take advantage of the labs. those labs are meant for phd student ….. they are accessible to b tech as well.
    @ashish (gandhe or aziz?)
    labs are used by phd students for research. other are junt visitor. th real money is being spent on them.
    i agree that money is spent on us. but remember that most of the research is carried by phd students. it is not fair to take a money and divide it up by all the students. money is spent on phd students in the labs. b tech are visitors to the labs. we do not use them at all. we do not know how to use the labs. only an experienced phd student knows the lab inside out. money is being spent on them. not on b tech students. its not fair to divide the total money by all students.
    also, do you think facilities we get are exorbitant? even by Indian standards, its ok. it 70% of money is being spent on iits .. there is something wrong with that. that means govt is not spending on primary education. govt apathy.
    btw, tiffany and ccd should not be subsidized. i dont think anything must be subsidized. i am fine with paying back … what i am not fine with is being called “anti-national’ by some people because i am not in India.

  7. Small doubt – Are you saying people are calling you anti-national just for studying abroad?

    Good to have you back and blogging though.

  8. @bofi
    not to me personally … haven’t you heard of people insinuating that? “a lot of money is spent on iitians but they all run away abroad”, “govt has wasted all the money on them” etc …. they are just one step away from saying “anti-national”

  9. I completely agree with u on the point of erroneously labeling people desirous of wanting their family members back as anti-national.
    Regarding storming of hijacked planes, India might not have such a policy, but there is one country that does – Israel. Israel has a policy of no negotiation with terrorists. I would disagree with you when you say that if planes would be stormed, hijackers would themselves crash the plane!!! Hijacking planes is not their profession! Hijacking is a means to an end – which in the Kandahar case was the release of 4 terrorists. If a country is prepared to storm the hijacked plane and accept casualties, terrorists would no longer resort to such tactics. But of course, the decision to storm / negotiate is a country-specific issue, which is also shaped by the unique circumstances being faced by it, in the case of Israel, being surrounded by enemies and rogue nations.
    Regarding capital punishment, killing someone in self defense is perfectly acceptable, at least in countries with a well developed legal system where the law is respected. In dictatorial / communist regimes, one can never know why a person is convicted! The law should take into account the motive of the action, which is done in countries where the law of the land is supreme, and not in countries where power is held with dictators.
    I strongly disagree with ur statement that psychopathic serial killers shouldn’t be hanged. In my view, such anti-social persons deserve harsh punishment, since they aren’t fit to live in a society. Their upbringing may have a strong bearing on the way they turned out, but that is no excuse for putting other innocent lives at stake. If it is established that they are mentally challenged, they should be put in a mental hospital under tight security, but in no way should they be allowed to mingle with the general public until they are fit to live in a society.
    There is one very easy answer to those who claim NRIs to be anti-national – the whopping amount of money that they send back to their relatives and family. In a recent survey, it was found that Indians sent the highest amount of remittances to their homes!!!

  10. Hey Shankar,
    This is not related to this topic, but to a blog which you posted close to 2 years ago on Islam-minorityism-secularism etc. etc. Go through this site:

    It’s interesting. It is the proof for what I said then.

  11. @deepak
    storming the plane is like treating the symptom with extreme possible side effect of killing large number of innocents. i am against that.

    as far as calling Palestine a rough nation is concerned …. going by history, it was Israel (Jews from Germany etc) which (with help of US and UK) occupied Palestine and not the other way around.

    abt capital punishment .. i mostly agree with you…. i gave my opinion only on serial killers. i dont want them to be free. i want them to be kept in metal hospital even if it costs a _lot_ of money (society is responsible for it anyway). i just dont want them killed because that would mean treating them like lab rats. in other cases …. i am not sure if capital punishment is good.

    i will look at the site sometime when i have the time. its 3 am now

  12. if u go back even further in history, you will find out who made the Jews leave Palestine and settle in Europe!
    The link I gave you has some info on this too!

  13. in the wikipedia link, i found this:

    7th century

    Birth of Islam, which, although among largely pagan Arabs, influences Judaism and Christianity. The rise and domination of Islam in the Arabian peninsula results in the almost complete destruction and decimation of the ancient Jewish communities there.

    More details on this in the link i gave u…

  14. Long time since I visited your blog…good post.

    And I agree with you that all who app are not anti-national. I cannot blame an individual for doing what is most beneficial for him personally, and, in an ideal society, any individual who does what is best for himself while staying legally and ethically correct should automatically contribute positively to the society. And this is true even in our far-from-ideal society today in my opinion…any individual who improves his skillset definitely contributes positively to the country’s growth in some way or the other, on an average. Those who stay in India turn out to be some of the biggest earners/enterpreneurs, and those who dont send back large amounts of money, be it to their family or to charity. Although it is definitely fair to expect iitians to work a bit harder and turn out better research (or some research atleast) during their ug days, the government cannot expect every iitian to join iisc/csir/some other govt research agency after their

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