Vol-CXIV : December 1, 2013

Dear Colleagues

Another set of for your perusal below:

  1. Today is world HIV/AIDS day. Other than some advertisements in daily newspapers, there hasn’t been much debate on ‘whither AIDS today’? In many countries, UNAIDS has reported a slow down if not reduction in the pandemic. Has the humanity won a collective fight against AIDS already? Or are we collectively complacent about it now? Given the large-scale migrations occurring in several parts of the world, is the virus merely on a quiet ‘roll’?
  2. International migrant workers are growing in numbers around the world. In many East Asian countries, migrant women domestic workers from Philippines and Indonesia alone add up to 300,000. Many of them remain inside the homes of their employers throughout their stay in the country. Their condition of employment, though not very affluent, certainly includes several provisions of decent living. They get weekly Sunday off, and they can use any public space for their enjoyment that day. The labour authorities in Hong Kong are certainly more vigilant in case of violations, though reporting of such cases is not easy. Contrast that to status of domestic workers, migrant women, in Delhi; how badly they are treated is truly repugnant and remains un-monitored by Indian labour authorities!
  3. A recent conversation about expanding cities in a haphazard manner suggested that tier two cities in India (like Bhopal) are facing major challenges. City life is no longer decent, pleasurable or exciting. There is no place for pedestrians and cyclists in the new city designs. Open spaces for free movements suffer from filth, squatting, stalking and crowding. Yet, more and more people are coming into cities in search of a ‘good life’. Thirty years ago, Bhopal was cool, walk-able, safe and fresh; no longer so. Is this a good urban life for the future generation? In comparison, ‘densely crowded’ Hong Kong and Singapore seem to be urban ‘heavens’?
  4. There is a growing concern about quality of education around the world. There is now developing a new ‘class system’ in education. A certain process of private and public education system has so evolved in many countries that economic status of students determines the quality of educational outcomes. This is as much true for primary and secondary education as it is for higher and tertiary education. Quality differentials are most pronounced in respect of competencies and skills acquired through formal education. Without addressing this class system in education, it is unlikely that growing economic inequalities in many societies could be checked?
  5. What is the nature of ‘snooping’ by ‘powers that be’ on our digital world? Most internet service providers are regularly asked by their governments and its security agencies to share digital information about various citizens and organisations through the internet, mobile phone and social media sites. American government is first ranked in monthly demands to this effect; Indian government is second. Just recall that these are large democracies, whose political leaders are proud of their democratic moorings. Freedoms of expression, association and movement are fundamental features of a democracy. The new digital world is now shrinking that considerably!

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon