Caught between State and Central

I live in Tamil Nadu, famous for its temples, culinary delights, classical art forms, political drama… and industries. The state is dotted with small and large industrial clusters, with every district having it’s own specializations. Step into one of these industries, you will see migrant labourers from other states. Most of the workers in Tamil Nadu’s industries are from other states like Bihar and Assam.

Tamil Nadu has a long history of intolerance towards the hindi  language. But industries here rely on migrant Hindi speaking labourers. Number of local workers are fast decreasing. Why has this happened? Is it because Tamil Nadu has no working population left?

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No… it is because local workers in Tamil Nadu do not take up  regular jobs. They prefer vocational jobs that give them the luxury of working when they need money and staying at home when they prefer.

Daily life in Tamil Nadu is made easy by government welfare schemes. Government run schools, hospitals, hotels, liquor shops, purified bottled water, free groceries, free rice, free electricity, free grinder, free mixie blenders, financial assistance for building houses, etc etc has made it possible to live without a full time job.

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The central government funded NREGA scheme ensures free salary for most families in villages. There is no work needed or done by NREGA members here. Yet, families enrolled in this scheme get a regular income.

But, the state also depends heavily on economically backward families for money. Government run alcohol shops generate a huge income for the state government, and daily wage earners are the main customers for these shops. Alcohol shops are crowded from dawn to dusk.

Government has taken little notice of the increasing number of jobless local population or their social problems. Present generation of politicians in the state turn a blind eye to the enterprising spirit of the state, and the woes of its industrial sector.

In addition, Central government’s recent slew of well intended measures have had their impact on these industries.

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Micro and small scale industries are the backbone for states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Majority of the industries here operate at low margins, beat competition by earning a good reputation, increase profits by increasing production numbers. There is very less scope to hoard black money or do unaccounted transactions. Black money here is synonymous with real estate, politicians, wealthy landlords etc.

Measures like demonetization and high tax rates under GST have hit the manufacturing sector adversely. Post demonetization, cash strapped industries fought to pay daily wage migrant labourers. Daily operations came to a stop as the supply chain froze and banks were overloaded with delays and money shortage.

Things were slowly returning back to normalcy, when it was time for GST. High tax rates, sudden increase in working capital, confusions and technical problems in filing returns are now taking a toll.

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In western states where money flow comes from wealthy traders, demonetization and GST will have a positive impact. There is scope for success as it may return back money to the government’s coffers. But in southern states where money flow comes from cottage industries and small scale manufacturers, these measures have a negative impact. Industries are fighting for survival due to these measures.

It is high time the central government understands the difference between wealthy hoarders and middle class industry owners. Policies and schemes that consider people as wealth hoarding cheaters should also have the means to protect industries operating at marginal profit.

In short, the state government of Tamil Nadu is driving workers away from jobs, making it difficult for industries to survive. In addition, Central government brings out schemes that confuse and penalize industries.

Caught between these two governments, survival is difficult for small industries. We wait hoping to see light at one or both ends of the long dark tunnel.

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Taramani – A Review

The film starts with a monotone narrative about Taramani, farmers, fishermen, cricket, etc and says about unrelated connections.

Then starts the film… a rocky journey that shows many social problems like – vulnerability of Anglo Indian women, theft, corruption, fake love, difficulties in the life of a single mother, flirting boss, the director’s misunderstanding of the integrity of men and women in the IT sector, dangers of party culture, live – in, problems faced by women who wear short dresses, dangers of online dating via facebook and whatsapp, and the personal lives of corrupt policemen. This movie is a mix of all extreme negative things in the society. An IT employee or normal family living in Taramani would never see or experience the happenings mentioned in this movie.

Finally, the viewer is happy to see the film end! Real life seems safer than the film. The 2 hour rocky journey has ended, and it feels good to return to the safety of the real world.

Very difficult to watch the whole film in one sitting. I do not have the heart to plan for a second time viewing.

 

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Business avenues – Bake Cakes & Confectionery from home

Baking is fast becoming a sought after hobby. For the experts, it is a risk free business with good returns. People looking for early retirement from corporate jobs increasingly choose baking as an alternate career.

Learning skills and tools are an important requirement for any career. For baking, this starts from learning the basics of baking to specialization in cakes and pastries. There are short term, long term and even crash courses for baking.

For beginners, there are short term courses that teach the basics of baking, including cakes, buns, breads and biscuits. For advanced and pro level bakers, there are numerous short term and long term courses specializing in cakes, cup cakes, pastries, etc.

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Baking is a field where new tools and techniques keep evolving. So, the best institutes have long experience, as well as teach new tools and techniques of baking. Starting with a good beginner course is mandatory. This can be followed by multiple courses covering cakes, and a host of other confectioneries.

Tools required for baking depend on what specialization is opted for.  Cookies require industrial sized ovens to bake large numbers. Cakes require a host of accessories and embellishments for icing and decorations. Cost of baking courses, and materials are on the higher side. But this is one field where returns are guaranteed even during the initial stages.

Party and celebrations are the trend of the day, especially in big cities. If you live in the middle of a city, with access to a social circle that loves to celebrate, baking at home would be a lucrative business opportunity with good returns.

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For those who enter the baking business as a solo person, planning for a way to deliver baked goods is important. For many bakers, baking is the best part of the job, while delivery remains a nightmare. Delivering baked goods requires handling with utmost care. Outsourcing delivery or hiring outsiders to deliver may not be a safe option. So, plan for the delivery facilities before hand, to ensure customer satisfaction,

Many bakers start by taking up customized orders for cakes and cup cakes. Colleagues, friends and relatives who love to celebrate would be prospective customers at this stage. Once returns start flowing in, you can take up daily orders for bulk baking of cookies or pastries from local hotels / bakeries. A few successful bakers with good time management skills do bulk daily orders, in addition to highly customized (meaning, high priced) cakes and pastries for parties.

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A good online presence will help baking businesses by leaps and bounds. Online gives the easiest means to reach out to event managers, partying circles, and caterers and hoteliers. The second best means is word-of-mouth. Nothing works as best as a satisfied customer when it comes to marketing.

There are dozens of new bakers coming up every month, but there is space for more and more as the demand is high. A good field by all aspects if your heart is into baking and your brain is sharp in business acumen.

Sexual Abuse and Globalization

1 month back:

News flash: (Tamil Nadu): A young woman, Swathi, was brutally hacked to death by a young men. Incident happened early in the morning in Chennai, at the crowded Nungambakkam Railway Station.

The killer walked away from the spot and no one chased him or took a photo / video on their phones. Police reached the spot 2 hours later. This incident has created a big outcry in the media, and among the public.

6 years back:

It was 8 PM in Chennai. I got down from the local train at Kodambakam Railway station. I had to walk though a few by-lanes to reach home. There were many passers by and street lights were on.

As I waited to cross the road, I felt someone push me aside. I looked up to see a man standing right next to me. I also noticed his hands coming towards me again. I asked him what he wanted. He replied back with a sheepish smile, without withdrawing his hands. I yelled at him saying he ought to watch his hands or be ready to face the police. I was scared and angry that I ran till I reached my  room.

I have faced similar incidents through out my tenure in  Chennai. While I write this, similar incidents are happening to many young children, teenage girls, working ladies and mothers across India. They face similar feelings of vulnerability and insecurity.

25 years back:

India was very different 25 years back. Streets in India were safer for women. In those days, it was common to see well-dressed stylish young men lingering near residential areas and universities to ‘watch’ young ladies. I remember seeing well dressed uncles loiter around our residential area to watch the young school and college going akka’s. But no one dared to go near or touch unknown ladies in public places.

A comparison…

25 years back, there were no hi-tech smart phones and CCTV cameras. Yet, an incident like Swathi’s murder in broad day light in a crowded public place could not have happened. Public would have raised the alarm, and chased behind the murderer. Passers by would have rushed the victim to a hospital immediately.

But today’s reality has let the murderer walk away leisurely from the spot, and no one went near the victim for 2 hours till Police arrived on the scene.

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Safety for women in India

What happened in the last 25 years ?

In the 1990s, India embraced globalization. It opened the door to lots of financial changes.  Education and career options became wide spread. It became easier to find jobs that paid well. Traditionally conservative women ventured out to colleges. They also got high paying jobs. Men and women interact and mingle a lot. Party culture, along with IT and BPO jobs have led to more women on the streets at night.

On the other side, Gloablization has also brought many social changes. There are realistic portrayal of crimes and social extremes in media. Films that portray brutality are appreciated by the public for their realism. TV channels bring all latest brutal crimes right in to the house. TRP is the norm of the day… As a result, common man’s mind has become used to crimes.

We have become numb to crimes and brutality. Unless something extremely brutal happens, there is no public outcry for the common everyday crimes. India is definitely not headed towards a safe zone.

The future…

Since globalization, India has been changing its social mindset. In the past, our culture and traditional practises were at risk due to globalization. But now, India has found a balance between international exposure and its own cultural identity.

Similarly, we are now going through a phase where human rights and personal freedom are at risk. We have to find a balance between modern lifestyle vs gender / religious / caste identity, and embrace humane feelings.

Globalized India has to pass this phase, and emerge out as a balanced and more humane society. Only time will tell how and when this happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participation review of Vijay TV s Neeya Naana

I was an avid fan of Vijay TV’s Neeya Naana talk show. I like the constructive discussions between general public. Other debates on TV focus on how well a person can debate. But, I thought Neeya Naana was focusing on facts and public awareness.

While watching the show a month earlier, my husband noticed a running scroll at the bottom inviting participation applications from women professionals So, I applied for it.

A week later, I got a call from Vijay TV. The topic was “Are men having a good time.., or are they toiling hard”? The caller was from Neeya Naana and he asked for my views on this topic. My instant reply was that I cannot generalize men. He urged me to answer it based on my general perception of men. As the discussion progressed, he asked me if I think being born as a man is fortunate and if I would like to be born as a man in my next birth. I do not believe in next birth.. and even if there was one, I am comfortable being born as who I am now. Based on this, he concluded that I think men toil hard. He asked if I can come to Prasad Studios in Chennai the next morning. I confirmed that I would be there the next day morning.

Arrival:

We drove from Pollachi to Chennai that night. We reached Prasad Studio in Vadapalani around 9.30 AM.  We registered my name with the Neeya Naana team there. During registration, the topic conveyed to me was slightly different. It was “How do women view men – are men dominating or responsible?”

There was a steady flow of participants till 10.30 AM. There were chairs for participants outside the studio. Breakfast was also served at the Studio. Most of the participants were busy discussing and debating points.   A few were calling up friends and relatives to inform of their participation in Neeya Naana. 3 ladies had already participated in Neeya Naana before. We waited outside the Studio till 11.30 AM.

Preparation:

We were finally called in to the Studio. Names were called out and participants were sorted as per their views – Men supporters on one side and Men haters on the other side. Lights were switched on.. the Neeya Naana set was there in front of us. We were allocated seats.  But, the seating arrangements were changed again and again for an hour. Reason given for this was participant’s dress colors and appearance should look well spread out when viewed on TV.

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The next one hour was extremely boring. We were asked to clap continuously with a smile on our faces. Then, we were asked to look straight for 10 minutes. These were recorded. This continued for around an hour while we waited for Mr. Gopinath, the famous host of Neeya Naana. Mr. Antony, the director of Neeya Naana, instructed both sides of participants. He gave us a list of points to be spoken about, and a list of points to be avoided. After this, his assistants instructed participants on the do’s and dont’s.. like don’t grab the mike, instead ask for it etc.

Starting:

Finally, Mr. Gopinath arrived. He had a brief discussion with the director, followed by a briefing with the assistants. It was past noon when the show started. Mr. Gopinath introduced the topic as “Women’s view of Men – Carefree or Suffering”. He started with the carefree side. Around 70% of what Mr. Gopinath spoke was prompted by the director.  At first, I felt strange that there was an echo for anything he says. Then I realized that it was the director prompting loudly. It looks like Mr.Gopinath or Mr.Antony had specific points in mind. As the mike moved among participants, they allowed a few participants to talk for long about specific points, but gave rude rebukes to a few participants for other points.

For Ex.., the lady who started talking about her personal experiences was rudely asked to stop. Mr. Gopinath instructed her was not to talk about personal “stories”. But another young lady who spoke of her team mates behaviour was encouraged to talk. This young lady did not use respectful language ( her exact words were “thanni adichittu mattai aagiduvanga”). But she was encouraged to continue talking.

Progress:

After 30 minutes of talking to the carefree side, Mr.Gopinath appeared stressed out. He said he was frustrated because participants were not giving answers  as he expected. For the next one hour, Mr.Gopinath picked out participants one by one, and threw questions at them on a host of men related issues. Those who could not give a satisfactory answer got harsh rebukes. At the end of an hour, most of the participants on that side were hushed up.

Only a few were encouraged by Mr.Gopinath to tell their views. These views were countered by a few ladies seated in the first row of the opposite side. Participants in the other rows kept voicing their views from the opposite side. Their views went unnoticed. Ladies in the first row appeared keen to keep the mike with them. Those who dared to shout out their views from the other rows were silenced by Mr.Gopinath. He said that  participants in the first row have answered his question and further replies were not needed.

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By then it was already 1.30 PM. Lunch was served. Many participants in the men – supporters side were disappointed that they never got a chance to tell their views. They asked  the Neeya Naana team about this. Prompt came the reply that they can speak up in the remaining segments. A few others approached the director, Mr.Antony, and asked for a chance to tell their views. We saw Mr.Antony passing on the message to Mr.Gopinath.

Post lunch, Mr.Gopinath’s focus was on the men – supporters side. Mr. Gopinath raised a few points spoken by the opposite team. He asked participants to counter these views. One of the participants in the first row  was a lawyer. She was a voracious public speaker. She fiercely guarded the mike, answering loudly in English for every single question. She ensured that no one else got a chance to talk. Many times, Mr.Gopinath had to remind her that this was not a fierce debate, but a public discussion.

By then, other participants had been waiting for long. They loudly demanded for a chance to tell out their views. Mr. Gopinath used the same approach again. His question was about health problems faced by men. He pointed to a lady aged around 45 years to answer this. She said  men were responsible towards family commitments and that she wanted to talk about family related issues faced by men. Mr.Gopinath replied in a stern and harsh tone that she had raised her voice asking for a chance to talk, but when he gave her that chance she is not talking sensibly. The poor lady had tears in their eyes.

Mr.Gopinath continued the same with anyone who dared to raise their voice asking for a chance to talk. After an hour, all the participants were silenced. Either they were afraid to speak out, or were tired and had lost hope of voicing their views. After that, it was mostly a discussion between 4 – 5 participants and Mr. Gopinath. But, even this discussion was not interesting or sensible.

Discussions:

A participant in the first row of Men supporters side said that her husband was coming home late due to work, and their sexual life was miserable. This was countered by a young girl in the other side who said that in the fast life today, sexual happiness should be compromised, and it was not really a problem for men!

Another lady who had impressed Mr.Gopinath earlier on was given a chance to speak. She said that if both the husband and wife were working, they never had any interest in sexual happiness. The next half an hour was spent listening to this discussion. Mr.Gopinath and Mr.Anotny appeared quite pleased with the discussion between the 3 ladies. They sat in silence listening with a contentment written on their faces.

After half an hour, Mr.Gopinath was prompted by the director to applaud this discussion. He promptly claimed that he was proud of this discussion. He also proudly announced with this discussion proved how intelligent Tamil women were!

Conclusion:

The show was nearing its final stage. Mr. Ram, Tamil film director, was the special guest invited for this episode. Not sure why no psychologist, or thinker or writer was invited to preside over this.. instead, it was a film director. By then, I had a splitting head ache and could not take any more of this. So, I decided to leave during the next break. It was 4 PM when I left.

 

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Review:

To summarize the show on one sentence – it is completely mismanaged. Most of the arguments and discussions we see on TV are edited and tailored. Actual shooting happens for 6 hours. This is edited and tailored to a one hour episode. So, the show aired on TV is not a genuine public talk show. It is a highly tailored and edited talk show.

Host Review:

Mr.Gopinath’s reply to lady participants is harsh and insulting. A talk show is one where participants engage in constructive discussions, not one where the host keeps bringing down the participant’s self respect.

Social Concern:

Tamil Media and Film industry has a section of people who project themselves as intellectuals. They acquire knowledge about social issues through books or movies. After this, they showcase the same issues in their films and shows. Then they become intellectuals overnight.

In addition, if this issue is related to Eelam Tamilians, or about Fishermen problems in Tamil Nadu, or about Marxist ideologies, etc.., the person is sure to be branded as an intellect in Tamil Film Industry. These intellectuals treat others who are not focusing on these issues as inferior common men.

A Participant’s Anguish:

I understand that the Neeya Naana team has the right to decide whose views to edit and whose views to broadcast. But do they have the right to invite participants and finally do not let them speak a word. Do they understand that participants travel at their own cost (many participants were not from Chennai), spend their time (it was a working day and women professionals were participating).. and finally get insulted by Mr.Gopinath?

Mr.Gopinath and the director appeared angry and tense throughout the show. At one point, Mr.Gopinath yelled out to the crew members, loudly shouting at them to lower the ear piece volume. It took him a minute to recover his pose and talk in a normal tone. Similar incidents kept happening through out.

If this show is well planned, organized and managed more efficiently, it would be a better and enjoyable experience for  Mr.Gopinath, the  Neeya Naana team and for the participants.

Looking Back:

My participation in Neeya Naana turned to be a very bitter experience. I took almost a week to forget the bitter memories. Why invite 50 professionals from across Tamil Nadu, shout at them and insult them, encourage senseless discussions for the sake of TRP, falsely propagate a sense of Tamil pride, include comments that degrade women and alienate migrants in Tamil Nadu, etc?

It has been 2 weeks since this happened. I have not watched Vijay TV since then… I will probably not watch Vijay TV at all in future. It is better to be at peace, rather than to be lured by such senseless media.