Category Archives: Social

Why Net-Neutrality? Or Why not tiered pricing?

Update: Kindly read the follow up article Net-neutrality. This is why.

I have genuine question. Why net neutrality? I know there are reams of pages of content answering the question, but I am asking from a completely lay man non-techie version of the question. Why? The only answer that I seem to get is – It protects the interests of the consumer.

Interest or Greed?

The current pricing model used by the internet service providers is something akin to an electric connection. They give you a line to use and bill based on the connection speed and the quantity of data or amount of time you spend online. The electric company doesn’t worry whether you use a geyser or lamp as long as you pay the bill. Similarly the present ISP models doesn’t care whether you stream YouTube or read Wikipedia. The analogy seems extremely apt, except for one difference – the cost of usage.

In case of an electric connection, you buy any equipment that you want to use and pay the cost of the hardware. The more you use the more the electric company gains, the equipment manufacturer gets nothing most of the time. Exceptions like cable TV exist, but again cable is another utility altogether and we will get into that shortly. But in case of the ISP, you buy services over its line which earns money for those services. In this case it is completely opposite; the ISP gains almost no money no matter how much you use any kind of service over their lines.
For example, using geyser on a daily basis could consume a lot of energy and prove to be great revenue for the electric company, whereas streaming movies 24×7 is going to benefit only Netflix of YouTube and does nothing to the ISP except choking their lines.

The ISPs this want to take a part of the money paid to the service as it also utilizes on their resource. The invention of thing like Fair Usage Policy (FUP) is a way to limit this choking of the lines.
So when companies like Google talk about net neutrality (against tired pricing), the real question is whether the company is really trying to protect the consumer or just trying to enjoy the free ride that it currently enjoys.

The Cable TV Pricing

From a consumer standpoint this is certainly against the interest because we don’t really want to pay more for certain services. It is time we visit the cable TV evolution and see what the consumer really has said and done about it.

Initially there were there was only one way of getting satellite TV – Using a Dish Antenna. The intial investment was huge. Then came cable operators, who charged a certain amount of fees for certain number of channels, no choices, all just paid an amount. After that came the Direct to Home (DTH) services replacing the cable TV operator with a corporate body. Until to this day we pay per channel, called packages. And the customer has hopped on merrily with some noises here and there. Nothing in the transition has affected the channels’ (services) revenue.

Applying the same route, we are currently in the cable operator state, where the ISP is giving us a cable, we pay an amount. If the model evolves into one which prices textual data, VOIP, and media streaming at different rates, like that of a channel based DTH pricing, and bills the consumer on what is consumed, a lot of people would might end up paying a lot more as well as a lot less. Just as I avoid all sports channels, I might avoid all VOIP usage. If I am programmer, most of my requirement is software package and code, there is no need for me to pay more. But people preferring YouTube to TV would pay a lot, and thus reduce revenue to business like Apple TV, Google TV, Netflix, etc., but taking away a share of the pie. So for me a consumer, paying on how much traffic I use seems as much legit as big truck paying more than car on a toll road, simply because I use more resource.

This argument so seems biased towards ISPs. What if things like the ones below, said in Wikipedia, happens?

From Wikipedia
Neutrality proponents claim that telecom companies seek to impose a tiered service model in order to control the pipeline and thereby remove competition, create artificial scarcity, and oblige subscribers to buy their otherwise uncompetitive services.

From HuffingtonPost
A fast lane would let some websites operate at higher speeds and essentially relegate many sites — likely smaller, less-moneyed ones — to a slower pace.

Where are the regulatory authorities who enforce mobile communication and telecommunication pricing? Why such an authority can’t be created and clear rules saying what could and couldn’t be charged drafted? Why can’t things like slow lanes be completely outlawed? Say we create a law which says Non-profit sites like Wikipedia, Khan Academy should never be charged (extra) even for streaming content and pricing can only be done on For-profit entities like YouTube and Netflix. Calls for making internet a utility are a step in this direction of regulation. Why would anyone really want to create a slow-lane if more speed and more data transfer results in more money for the utility provider?

So.,

The entire thing about raising hue and cry over differentiated pricing seems to be for only one reason – Greed.
The greed of the companies to make money. They pull us, consumers, into the issue by terrifying us that our bills would shoot sky high and ISPs will fleece consumer. If that is the real issue, I think it is better dealt by talking to (or even creating new) regulatory authorities, consumer protection agencies and other similar governmental organizations and certainly not by tactfully converting a purely capitalistic issue a social issue involving rights and freedom.

I as a layman consumer is completely ok with the current state of affairs and don’t mind if the billing becomes usage based, or someone creates a fast-lane for those who pay more as long as the slow lane is at the mandated minimum speed, which is the present case anyways.

Facebook Account Deletion

I just now deleted my Facebook account.

Why?

  1. Freedom – Day by day using it makes me feel as if someone is dictating me how and what I should be talking to people about. The rampant, out of the blue censors by law enforcement and judiciary are the reasons. Even though I have never been a part of any such action, the atmosphere is getting too toxic over there in that domain.
  2. Irrelevancy – Most of the content that I encounter on my timeline are completely irrelevant to me and the only content that I engage with are blogs like Lifehacker and posts of a set of very few friends, both of which I think I can do without having to endure a non-free environment.
  3. Privacy – It has been a great concern for me ever since I became aware of its importance and ethics. Somehow kept telling myself, nothing would affect me. I think underestimating risks is something I am unwilling to do these days after reading “Fooled by Randomness“.
  4. Paranoia – Closely connected to “Privacy” – I was always thinking what if someday I discover that all the stuff that I have shared is sold/shared to someone and that someone uses it for purposes I never suppose it to be? Am I planning murder? No. But what if someone frames me for it? I am NOT paranoid by nature, I walk 1 among the billion+ in the country. But again, not all billion+ walk around recording data about what they read, where they go and what they think.
  5. Narcissism – One of the biggest effect of Facebook on character is, I think, breeding narcissism. It breeds a kind of self importance and provides an easy sense of achievement and forces a person to project a personality, real or otherwise. This becomes especially stressful when considering the fact when one is connected to all sorts of people from high school friends to working colleagues. A few recent encounters with people has left a bad taste in  mouth about the whole “sharing” thing.
  6. Spam – Spam, spam, spam – there is just no end to it. I am generally very efficient in ignoring Ads and spam because all that I look for is content from people and never click any link other than blog-posts. But most of the time genuine and original content is very hard to come by and all sorts of false claims on history, technology, identity creep in along with celebrity, movie and all sorts of eye-ball catching stuff.

After considering all this, the most logical decision to make seems to be to leave the system and reduce a lot of responses that brain generates due to unnecessary stimuli.

Will I ever get on a social network again?

I currently do not have an answer to that. There are a lot of things to be considered as listed above and see how they play out to make a decision. With the current turmoil of internet censorship across the world, misuse of it as tools of destruction, authoritative control, capitalist bait holder, and as an enterprise looking to make money indirectly by using my data, I don’t think I am getting onto it (FB) any time soon. I specifically mean FB here because, there exists an alternate platform called Diaspora* which deals with all of my above concerns (okay, maybe not narcissism), but  jumping into such a platform is pointless if I don’t really have the people I want to interact.

Pampering kids

There are two kids in my class who have better reading, writing comprehension skills that half the class, which should make them “above-average” in conventional sense. Both have a problem – attitude. Their parents tell me they were the toppers of the yesteryear. I had given C-D grades to them during the 1st term exam and the parents were very upset. I didn’t know the kids this well back then and thought them to be just normal kids. As the parents coming barging in with complaints and pointing fingers at me, I was taken aback thinking I was perhaps not seeing them as to what they are capable of doing. I was apprehensive of meeting their parents thinking that it was my fault. Perhaps I have made a bad evaluation of their papers. I was just three months into being a teacher.

Recently an incident put things in perspective. I have taken the kids to play in the ground, while I was keeping scores and overseeing stuff other kids were doing, these two have sneaked up to the first floor and have gone to the classroom. I was perplexed when I found this out at the end of the class. When I reached the classroom with the other kids, one of the two has hit the leg on the desk and has been crying.

The parent was furious – obviously. The parent went on to praise the child to be the one who always gets the first rank, scores well in everything, has got a shield for something and the other kid was the one who was always a competition to the first kid. These two were supposedly the toppers of the class. Now a days the kid is not willing/interested to come to school. Doesn’t seem to eat the lunch properly. Handwriting has deteriorated. Looks dull in the evening when the kids returns home. All symptoms of kid not enjoying the school and then the word came “teacher not taking good care of the child”. I was left wondering for a second what the parent actually meant. These kids are the ones who always create problems in the class. The kid in discussion has been said to be a great pain in their team and the kid barely pays attention in the class to what I am saying. Most of the time I get distracted trying to bring their attention. Slowly as the conversation progressed one thing became clear. These were kids who have been in the limelight most of the time in yesteryear(s) and here is a teacher who refuses to accept the fact and give the attention they think they deserve.

I am thinking about a number of other kids who are attention seeking as well and get themselves a place in the class. They get more warnings and consequences in the classroom than others. But there is one categorical difference with them and these kids. Their parents don’t praise them as simple as that. No pampering whatsoever. Their parents talk about what the kid should improve but not how great they have done. When these parents were told their kids have secured “A”s their reply was “OK”. Didn’t utter a “very good” or that “He/She reads well” kind of comment.

Such a difference in behavior.

Impact of Cinema

Impact of Cinema – One can write reams on it. I will stop with the incident in the classroom in which I teach.

The Incident

First to the as-is version of the happenings of the day, without any personal bias, adjectives, adverbs or any modifier that challenge reporting fact.

The occasion is Children’s day. The students are given a chance to dance and sing in the classroom. Initially, there is the chaos of 4th graders who are told to self organize themselves. After the initial phase of confusion clears and the performances start to flow. Boys sing songs which are aimed to tease girls. Songs like “இந்த பொண்ணுங்களே இப்படித்தான் தெரிஞ்சு போச்சுடா” “ஊதா கலரு ரிப்பன், யாரு உனக்கு அப்பன்?” flows from the boys and Church choir songs from the girls. One of the girls point out that songs by the boys are aimed at teasing girls. The guys decide to tease during one of the choir songs and start making dance movements which are done by actors drunk on the screen. The teacher has to intervene and warn them not to do it. The girls decide enough of Choir and sing a Cinema song. The song is “வேணா, மச்சா.. வேணா, இந்த பொண்ணுங்க காதலு.. அது மூடி தெரக்கும் போதே உன்ன கவுத்தும் கோட்டரு..”, for which the movements breakout in the boys ranks, for which they are warned by the teacher again. A girl reaches out to the teacher, to ask, why the boys are being shown a hard face on a good day. The teacher explains that the boys are teasing them and the girl retorts “So what?”.

My thoughts

I am not sure what to write here. Are they supposed to be the questions that I have now? The fears that sting me? The irritation that angers me? I really don’t know. I am suppressing my overflowing urge to deconstruct the happenings of the day and relate it to the effects cinema causes on little children aged 8-9 yrs and draw conclusions on gender bias, inequality and impact of culture. Because, I don’t want to draw any conclusions here, now, at this point.

The Idea of Democracy

Before I begin, (can be skipped)

I have a few things going inside my brain as if spun like the saw dust in convection experiment. Though mostly ignored, these things tend to jump in between a conversation or tend to pull conversations towards them so that they can show themselves. This has resulted in a number of “long pause” moments in my conversation. This poor blog is the place where I decided to pour them down, so this process of convection can stop.

The Scene

Most Indians would have had “democracy” explained to them them, as such, in their schools via the standard definition of “by,of,for the people”. What it means in real life, though is understood later in life when circumstances set right. I understood it when I watched a 70s, probably even 50s or 60s, movie. I don’t remember the entire story line, but the scene which gave me idea of democracy sticks to this moment. The scene unfolds as follows:

A group of rebels fight for the freedom and liberation of their land from the clutches of the king, they call evil and his rule tyranny, and establish democracy. On a particular day, they get hold of a bodyguard of the king. He is brought in chains and made to stand before the council of the rebel leaders, who are sitting over a table, discussing strategies. The bodyguard reveals nothing to the council’s questions and proclaims his loyalty to the king. The head of the council tells his men to throw him in a dark cell. As the men holding the chain wait for the council members to leave before they can take the bodyguard away, a man brings dinner to the leader and places it on the table and spills the drink on him. The leader becomes furious at this indignation in front of a enemy and beats the man (a servant in his mind). At this point, the bodyguard laughs aloud and asks:

“Is this what you call democracy? Is this the new world order you are fighting for? If this the example of the society you are fighting to create, my motherland is better served by my King than your democracy.”

And is pulled out of the room as soon as he finishes his rhetoric. The leader stands at the now empty hall, except for him and the servant now curled in a corner, stunned at what has just happened. He turns towards the man in the corner, goes and hugs him uttering “We are all one, we are all equal..” and the scene fades away.

The interpretation

No other song, no other writing, no other painting, no other teaching, and no other anything has made me understand the meaning of democracy as this scene from an unknown movie. It essentially captures what every true believer in democracy fears, “autocracy”. Although none of the governments in the world would accept it, each one them is autocratic with varying levels of autocratic influence. Things like occupy movement have tried their best to expose this wolf in sheep clothing, little has transpired to reality.

Having said that, I do not mean to take the stand of a socialist by condemning free economy and enterprises, nor do I support the capitalist propaganda of talking in terms of wealth. But I believe there exists enough moral ground between the two in order to explore and settle. And probably the correct interpretation of democracy lies somewhere in that space.

Indecision and Enterprising

Trains journeys are quirky, just like India. I happened to meet a bank official of a nationalized bank in the last journey. He talked about a lot of things from UPSC exams to anger management, credits to my other co-passenger. If one wants to understand the status of economy, among the many people to meet should be a bank official. The following accounts from him tell a general tale of how India is today.

Account 1: The bank is planning to construct housing for its employees so that it can do away with the monthly Housing Allowance (HA) it pays. The management team has done the math and has estimated an amount under which it is economical for the bank to build housing, above which the bank is better off paying the HA. Tenders were issued and it attracted only 3 bidders. To be a reasonable they need to attract at least 6-7 bidders. But it simply doesn’t happens. Moreover, the three who have bid have a nexus. The bid amounts are so high that, if any bid is accepted, it becomes uneconomical for the bank. So the team talked with the bidders to get the quotation down, for which the bidders impose terms so all three can benefit. If the terms are accepted, it becomes illegal. This has been repeating year after year. The only things the team has to offer is – indecision. Simply the team cannot decide.

The official tells that it is not a unique case in banking. The problem persists at all levels of decision making in the economy right from the ministerial level. The example he gives is the famous 2G Spectrum case. While the CAG quotes a presumptive loss of so much crores due to illegitimate issuing of licenses, what has the redone legitimate 2G licensing done last year achieved? Certainly it hasn’t brought the exchequer the intended amount. If audited, it may even turn out the present income from the licenses, may even be less than the “tainted” money. In the bank’s case they have opted for indecision rather than either loss or a tainted profit.

Account 2: In theory, the education loan is the most ideal form of borrowing. One doesn’t pledge anything or provide any 3rd party surety.  The bank simply keeps entire trust on the borrower and his commitment to repay. In reality, rarely there exists a ideal system. He says the percentage of loan repayment is somewhere between 15-20%, in student numbers not in the amount repaid. The catch here is the lower the loan amount, the more likely the student is likely to pay. So technically the unpaid 80-85% are the heavy borrowers. Why doesn’t the student pay? The reasons vary from inability to pure greed. Some interesting reasons:

  • a girl student has been married to a person, who demands the entire salary to be given over to him. So the girl is willing to give in writing stating something like, “Arrest me if you want to for defaulting. I am better of in a jail than with my husband”
  • another girl’s husband simply considers it a matter concerning her father and warns of legal consequences if troubled by the bank again
  • a medical student in Australia simply wasn’t interested to pay even after settling down there, the case was pursued throw embassy and notice served before the parent coughed up
  • an engineering student earns 18,000 per month in Chennai, what is left of personal expenditure and family commitment is too little even for the interests
  • one doesn’t simply wants to repay the loan as the government is busy waiving them

So what does the bank do? How do they recover the money? The solution again is indecision. The new manager comes pushes the repayment period for a six months further and leaves the office without showing bad loans and the next manager repeats it. Because in most cases, the student simply has nothing in his pocket to give.

Enterprising

While I am not a economist to even the smallest of measures, this is what I observe. Of all the posh talk regarding FDI, market liquidity, global cues, blah blah persists in economic strengthening of the country, hardly any thought is given to the strengthening of local enterprises. It is hard to tell when our Finance Minister last talked about anything other than foreign investment and global market cues. While the situation, in terms of laws and regulations, for IT services and tech startups seem conducive, with introduction of things like within-24-hour registration, there is hardly any push in other sectors. Hardly anything fresh comes out from India. Even in crown jewel of Indian enterprises the IT, the industry is largely based on services and the lookout for an Indian Google or Facebook (I am not talking about a equivalent service) hasn’t ceased yet.

This sluggishness in enterprise is the one of the big reasons, that fuels the indecision in India. Had the entrepreneurial scene been better, the dilemma of the housing construction for the bank wouldn’t have existed, not all students would have been made to pre-sell their labor in the name of loans, or even better, they wouldn’t have a hand to mouth existence like a daily-wage laborer. While I wouldn’t argue lack of enterprising is the only reason for indecision at various levels in the economy, it does have a undeniable connection when dealing with the development.  While there are a multitude of reasons for this slack, it is important to recognize the impact it has on the economy and accept the fact, no matter how much the FDI is, whatever the global cues are, we have approached a point where economic growth is being held back by our indecision and the lack of home grown enterprises solving local problems.

Amateurs We Are

This post is a highly opinionated piece on the Student Hunger Strike Movement for Tamil Eelam. The views are my own and doesn’t reflect anyone else’s.

I have been getting emotional and all that due to the meager response we received for the student strike across Tamil Nadu pressing the Central Government to bring out a referendum condemning Sri Lankan Government for its genocidal activities against Tamils and a demand for a separate state(country) of Tamil Eelam. Some said our strike was already a success since the DMK party has walked out of its alliance from the UPA Government. Some said it to be the greatest student movement since 1965. Was it really a great movement? And if so, why are we still counting on Facebook likes and social media for news delivery? Why hasn’t any 24×7 new channel called any of us for prime time? Why do strangers still question us about impact of the movement? Sure, it has been on for 15-20 days, depending on how you count, and has mobilized students all across the state (Tamil Nadu) including entire colleges in many cases. It has students from all sorts of background, arts, science, law, engineering, medicine, charted accounts. If the educational diversity isn’t enough, the geographic is more amazing, we have got support from Pittsburgh, London, Paris, Melbourne, Malaysia, Canada, Gulf and the list flows. Despite all this diversity, variety, size and enthusiasm, we were still a inner page news. Impact? Big psychologically – among the people who followed us, encouraged us and supported us, but politically – measurable if you count that DMK walkout. If you want to measure the political impact based on our set goals, well, I would say NIL. Everything that happened in the last week would have happened just as it happened, despite the movement. Why? Why didn’t it move anything tangibly?

Update: A student representative talked in the 9’o clock prime time in Puthiya Thalaimurai as I wrote this. At last a tinge of impact.

The Answers

The answer is simple, we are still students, inexperienced amateurs. That is it? Nothing more? Judging by the Press Meet that happened on 22nd March 2013 in the Chennai Press Club, I personally think, Yes, that is it. Nothing more.

Peeking a little bit, trying to know the anatomy of this movement and its growth, I am trying to see what really ran this movement (yes, it is past tense already, at least for me). The movements roots are seen in the Hunger Strike by Loyola students, they fasted at least for a week before getting arrested and thrown into the hospitals. Early reports chided their demands. Other college students were heard joining the movement in support of the protest. When IIT joined on 17th and a public call was put forth for all Tamil Nadu student strike on the 18th, there was no stopping. To me 18th was the day of rising, but who gave the strength? No one. As I re-positioned myself on that day looking for the core of the movement, it struck me, there was “No one”. Everyone had been doing and everybody else was also doing, no central authority, no agenda, no multistage plan, no organization, nothing. Just an ad-hoc network that kept itself flowing. There is no structure in the anatomy.

We wouldn’t let any political party to guide us, we wouldn’t allow anyone dictate our agenda. We just wanted to go on and on and on. People who were there on the Marina that day (20th March) know that feeling. Some said it was fight until death, but the well-known untold truth was, the movement was bound to die on the day of Geneva UNHRC voting. 21st March is the day the movement will finally loose shape is what I suspected. After some field action on 21st,when I saw the update “There will be a press meet by 11 AM at the Chennai Press Club tomorrow“. I thought “this meet is the one that is going to make or break the movement” The movement was in its perfect infancy. I had tweeted earlier,

. Not just the students, the movement itself was perfect clay for mould.

The Press Meet

I would say the the Press Meet broke the movement, put it bluntly, it just said “We were just kidding guys, you just fell for a prank”. Don’t take it wrongly that I am insulting the movement or the people who gave the press release. It is just that we guys are amateurs. When I entered the Press Club someone (4 of them) was already getting ready to sit on the dais. They called themselves representatives from some student federation. They said that Center hasn’t yet reacted to the protests of students and in order to make it turn to their side they would give a deadline until March 31st. If they haven’t reacted by then, they would get students to protest in front of President’s residence. In the meantime they had planned to arrange seminars across all districts of Tamil Nadu to bring more awareness about the Eelam issue. That was it. Press meet over in a matter of 5mins. I really thought, wow, so short and simple, clear and crisp, this is going to be great. A week to plan, co-ordinate, maybe create alternate approaches and execute. Although I was a bit disappointed for travelling 40mins for a 5min press meet, the message was more than compensating. In fact, bright and acceptable to all standards.

But the day wouldn’t end that easy. When I came out, there was another group waiting, the people who have organised the Marina Beach event, the people behind the FB page and to a certain degree it was the core group who initiated the movement. Then who are those people who talked to press a moment ago? What? They are different? There are two groups? Forget groups, now we have two faces? Two identities? “A movement with two faces is history even before it is born” is my opinion. The second group was a loose congregation of individuals from various colleges, mostly one per college, rarely two. This explained the movement’s  structure-less anatomy and ad-hoc-ness.

The Amateurs in Action

I had the option to stand on the dais or to sit down as a audience. I chose to sit down, for I am not worthy to stand on the dais. I haven’t attended a press meet in life, but have seen a lot of project reviews. I presume both are almost same, there are people sitting opposite to you ready to strip your project naked, tease every part of it until they prove your work is shit or you prove them your work is gold. No body really bothers the actual outcome (at least in colleges), what matters is the work you have put in, things you have learnt, and what the future work is. So the students were on the stage presenting their project, this one was a real world one.

First an introduction and official statement was requested. Both proved we were kids. The introductions went haphazard with almost 10 people introducing themselves. It would have been better if spokespersons would have been decided and they introduced and started with the official statement. The statement was a lengthy one, thanking for the students who made this possible, condemning the nil response of the center, the important demands of the movement, and the future plan. The future plan is the one that poured ice water over the burning fire, it is to undertake a “Non Cooperation Movement” against Govt of India to pressure them to take notice of the issue. Non Cooperation Movement? Against British? No? Not the British India? Oops Sorry. I am still wondering, how did this people even conceive this idea?

Press had some unfinished business that day, they wanted first to know about the integrity of the movement before even talking about what the movement “plans” to do. With two parties issuing Press Release on the same day on the same dais, anyone would doubt the integrity. Luckily the clear and crisp guy who talked earlier was in the dais with the second group too, but gave a fuzzy reply. He said, “When you fight under a single banner, it might induce boredom. Since two bodies are there we can carry each other in times of slackness.”  What? Boredom? Slackness? After 1 week on field? Oh! Boy. Why me? Why did I feel good about this guy a few minutes before? The press pressed for more, students blurted out there exists some differences, but they are working hand in hand with each other and will support each other. I really wish they have resolved conflicts and issued a joined press release, hiding the differences under the dais carpet. If two groups are bad, different future plans are worse. Look at them, one wants to reach Delhi, one wants the Delhi to reach them. I personally felt, the press meet a disaster. The more they are going to talk the more damage would be inflicted.

Moving to the Non Cooperation movement, press wanted to know how students planned to implement it. The implementation would be by not paying toll fees, no taking tickets in trains, no paying taxes, not doing anything that earns a revenue for the government. So who would implement it? Will the students block the toll collectors, the ticket counters, lay siege to tax offices..etc.? “It is to be done by gaining the support of the public, and hence we are calling the public take up the non cooperation movement”. What? A call for the public? I thought it was a student movement. Public support is good thing to ask for, but telling public to take forward the movement? This is where I really really felt the “We were kidding……..” moment. Even if the directive was to telling students lay siege to toll gates and ticket counters I would have felt happy at the simple-thought proposal of “non cooperation movement”. But telling the public to take over indirectly was like “Hey play time is over go to bed now.” Actually this statement put the movement to bed. Someone was mentioning something about stopping the power from Neyveli Lignite Corporation at the last minute briefing when waiting outside, luckily they didn’t mention it inside, I would have stood up and walked home crying.

The official statement carried a phrase, “throwing the Congress Party out of Tamil Nadu by democratic process“.  I actually warned the guy before entering not to talk about political parties in general. It looked like Congress was already printed in the press note they brought. Fine, if hell breaks loose who cares about excesses? Then came the question:

Why congress?

Because they don’t support our agenda.

The BJP doesn’t support too. What do you say about that?

We do not support BJP either.

You want to make the center to act. If both parties are against your demands, whoever comes to power in center they won’t support you. How/When do you think you can achieve your goals?

We will create a third front.

This hit the floor square, everyone laughed, including me (pardon me,I didn’t mean to insult). Future movement organizers, I beg you, if you are creating a apolitical movement, make sure your entire process is apolitical. I personally would have preferred to talk about central govt in general not about a particular party. Or at least would have avoided the direct political questions by saying the movement is not yet fully grown to impact such big political changes. I am not thinking this over and writing, I was precisely thinking those “deflective” answers sitting in the audience, I just wonder why no one on stage thought the same.

With political immaturity clearly exhibited, it was time to take the Foreign Policy test. There was some phrase let loose somewhere about “boycotting US goods” in the students’ statements. When I heard that question, I actually thought myself sitting in pre-1947 era press conference.

“Why do you want to boycott US goods?”

“Since US has been supportive of the SL govt and has brought out a eye washing resolution in the UNHRC, we strongly condemn their actions and hence call for a total boycott of US goods in Tamil Nadu”

“Ok. What about China goods then? China too supports the SriLankan Govt.”

“We would call for a boycott of Chinese goods too.”

“Do you think this will actually work out?”

“That is what we want to convey in this press meet, we want the public to support us by boycotting these goods”

Personally I wanted to get up and reply, “The questions are beyond the preview of our planned agenda” and put an end to this leg pulling by the Press, but someone had put the US goods boycotting thing in it already. The water has gone above the head, would it matter if its a feet or a yard?

Then the purpose of these boycotts and non cooperation was raised. Drawing the attention of center govt, the US and others, making them to hear our pleas and getting them react was the response, at which a press member commented a bit bluntly “No one will come to talk you from the center. No one.” I think that guy really supported the students and wanted the movement to have a tangible outcome, but was completely put off by the amateurish way things turned out.

Someone asked, “Since you are against the center government completely, don’t you think this might affect the future prospect of Tamil Nadu students in getting passports, or central govt jobs etc.”. I don’t know whether this was a legit question. What I sensed was, it was a tricky question to bring out the secessionist ideals hidden under the movement, if any. I didn’t have answer, don’t yet have. The reply served the questions purpose though, “While two Kerala fisherman were killed by Italians, a lot importance was given to the issue, but more than 570 Tamil Nadu fishermen have been killed so far, but there is no concrete step taken by govt to stop this. We think we (tamilians) are already being treated as second class citizens, so being sidelined by center is nothing new”. There you go trickster, we have fallen for it. Satisfied? This response brought out the secessionist thoughts hidden underneath neatly.

Luckily my most feared question did not come up. If they have inquired about the presence of LTTE leader Prabakaran’s photos in the protests, we would have been goners. For many would have said Prabakaran as their leader and called themselves a LTTE cadre. I think since the majority was Tamil media, we were saved that moment.

There are a few more pain points to note as well,

  • at some particular point someone on the stage became emotional and started shouting
  • at the end of the press meet someone from dias called the press people and explained for some obscure question asked in the middle somewhere and was given no consideration
  • answered almost every question put forth, even for things that were beyond the purview of the movement
  • naive – couldn’t judge questions that would eventually bring out the bad hidden under

Last Words

I understand this was the first press movement most would have attended and there might be slips, but some I have put forth are blunders. At least I think them as political blunders. At the end, I am under the confusion, whether I am complete fool who thinks himself to be intellectual enough to write this piece or I am actually more mature than the amateurs.

I wonder when everything was shared over the facebook, Why wasn’t a call for opinions on how to take this movement was not called for? Why wasn’t the points to be spoken in the press meet discussed over with others? Did they assume themselves to be the leaders of the movement? It is more questions for me. If this press release is going to decide the future of the movement, then the epitaph has been written between the lines of the press release.