Thursday, 5 March 2015

An Indian optimist’s dream of repeating the cricket world cup win

  Can he hold it again? (Image courtesy: NDTV)
After a great start with an emphatic win against arch rivals Pakistan followed by an impressive victory over the tournament’s favourite, South Africa, Team India is geared up for a tremendous competition.  The way things are shaping up, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand  and Sri Lanka are the four teams that can threaten India defending the title. The Proteas and the Kiwis have never made it to the Finals, while the Lankans won the Cup once, in 1996.  Other teams like England, Windies and Pakistan don’t seem to measure up to the competition for some reason or the other.  While it appears South Africa’s time to sparkle, the Indian fans just don’t empathise with other teams.

With batting its strong point, Indian skipper M S Dhoni, whenever calls it right and often lucky with the coin, opts to bat first to gain the psychological merit.  When you bat first, the team is resting while the opponents are on the field and you set the target and know how much to defend, hence plan accordingly.  There is more scope for trial and error, test and research when you have runs on the board, but the margin for error is thin when you have less than 200 to guard.  Though the Kapil Dev-led camp made it in 1983 (in a 60-over decider), can one really fancy a sub-200 risk in today's batsman-dominated game? Mind you, cricket, today, is breathing in a T-20 age.

Though Indian bowling is not at its peak, Dhoni does have options with seven regular time bowlers, but lacks one genuine legendary bowler like an Anil Kumble or a Dale Steyn.  The media hype with plenty of advertisements are okay but it usually works against the ultimate goal of retaining the World Cup.  Cricketers are deemed immortal when the team performs well but the support evaporates when they hit a slump till they restore form and perform again.

With the magic spell of great victory against South Africa, the bowling seems matured to become more trustworthy. If the exhibition in the fist two matches is any indicator of Team India’s subsequent delivery, the Indian fans can be in for a treat, and can be expected to qualify for the semis and why not clash in the finals as well.  An  optimism assumes why the winning title shouldn’t be defended?  An India vs. Australia final is what many of the cricketing world will be  hoping for and the 2003 results can be avenged.

Lucky with the toss aside, Indian team has it that they have been playing matches in Australia for quite a while before the World cup and are accustomed to the weather and pitch conditions.  As India sails through the remaining matches, it will be delightful when the quarter-finals starts and move to heated semi-finals and the ultimate finale.  Can we hope for a party for the third time?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The muffler man has the last laugh

When a national TV channel flashed 67-3, I, for a moment, thought that it was the customary Pakistani score card in a ODI cricket match.  On reconciling with the electoral reading of the Delhi election results, Arvind Kejriwal was declared as the man-of-the-match, who showed in no unequivocal terms that he can sweep and reverse-sweep.  The Delhi verdict clarified that there were few contenders, most of them  comprehensively swept under the rug. The Congress party scored a golden ‘duck’ and the paltry three seats confirmed the BJP humiliation complete.

The common man was taken casually for someone who wears muffler to fight cold and cough. But here is some one who showed he can fight the mighty and the corrupt, too.  Whether the vote is against Modi or Bedi, the clear winner is Arvind Kejriwal, the muffler man had the last laugh. If 1977 were Janata-wave, 1984 Rajiv Gandhi-wave, the 1989 V P Singh-wave, 2015 can be named a “Kejriwal-wave”, partly denting the 2014 modi-wave.  Sniffing that the Bedi-factor may not work, the BJP drafted the entire central leadership for the campaign. The phenomenal political event may well have major consequences for the national domain, as the 67-3 score-card applied the brakes on what looked like an unstoppable pan-India ride to power.  Rarely has there been an occasion in Indian politics when a party scripted such a massive victory, reminding the AIADMK-Congress alliance winning 225/234 seats in 1991.

While this victory is AAP’s defining moment for the future, the 46-year old IITian showed that agenda can outsmart propaganda and desisted from indulging in counter-smear campaign.  Calling him “urban naxalite”, bhagoda (runaway, escapist) and more, never behoved a Prime Minister to get down to name-calling.  When Mani Shankar Aiyar derided the chaiwallah, the PM was backed, but the latter did not replicate the courtesy. A few more vitrolics, AAP would, probably, have scored a centum – 70/70.  The recent attacks on the churches had its share in affecting the BJP’s poll prospects, the muslim-vote seems shifted in AAP’s favour.  Mind you, it is not a photo-finish, but a landslide victory.

Wake-up call

No state election is referendum of central government.  Good or bad central government affects state election results, not vice-versa.  But ensure that it doesn’t become one, as we all know only too well it doesn’t take long for a spark to become an inferno. BJP, nevertheless, exposed its vulnerability in a direct contest. In 2013-14, the Congress party was left bewildered by the AAP which came from nowhere to steal its thunder.  Arvind Kejriwal deserves standing ovation for his dare-devilry in making substantive inroads into the national parties, one after the other.  Though AAP did not win a single seat in Delhi in the Lok Sabha election, Kejriwal remained steadfast to his ground.

The voting pattern showed that it was a mass exodus from Congress to AAP.  Usually a vote lost from Congress goes to BJP.  But this time, it went to AAP, and in a big way. The electorate reckoned that a Congress vote is a wasted vote. Apart from maintaining positive posture, AAP also had the grace to seek apology from the electorate for its earlier missteps. The ‘broom’ swept clean and revived the sinking ship, the democracy, exhibiting the presence of a much-needed opposition.
Modi should take the onus for the Delhi debacle, else there is little to distinguish him from the dynastic ‘Gandhis’.  BJP’s enormous resource base had to give way for the ‘common man’, happily showing democracy is not dead, yet.  Thousands of people including students, lawyers, retired professionals, college professors and housewives see AAP a new phenomenon which renewed their faith for a better future of the common man.  The story of AAP, in fact, is not just its story, but a story of the people, reinventing politics and themselves.

AAP must move beyond fighting corruption.  It is vital for Kejriwal to have a strong cadre before taking policies to the masses. Having said that, running a political party and maintaining a vibrant cadre is tough especially  in national scenario and we have many examples where many parties failed to maintain their establishments and shut their shops after one or two general elections.  Praja Rajyam Party in Andhra Pradesh started by the matinee-idol Chiranjeevi failed to reach its expectations, so is Uma Bharathi’s Bharatiya Jan Shakthi Party.  Former IAS Officer and often considered to be an intellectual bureaucrat Jaya Prakash Narayan’s Lok Satta too could not move into the masses.  These cases show that the vote bank and election foray in India is altogether a different and a difficult game that a person like Arvind Kejriwal needs to tackle with.

The common man’s life has been miserable by the unabated price rise. FMs,  Planning Commission officials and advisory councils have been ad nauseum assuring that the prices will go down, while the common man remains in dark.  If Kejriwal makes even a small difference to the popular perception of politics, he will have done a lot.  And Kejriwal will surely experience for himself the challenge of practising politics without its attendant ills.  People of  Delhi have sent a strong message to the politicians and political parties how they should behave.

If political honesty is oxymoron, Mr. Kejriwal, the mandate has bestowed you a chance to dispute it.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

AB de Villiers bludgeons Windies


“Life is all about taking the right decision, seeing Gayle bat today I think I took the right decision of being wicket-keeper”.  Recall the message tweeted by MS Dhoni when Chris Gayle massacred the Pune Warriors with his record-breaking 175 in the IPL-T-20-2013 edition.  Similar sentiments would be echoed  by many more teams and players on seeing the AB de Villier’s holocaust today, while most international bowlers must be sighing, “Thank God, we are not at its receiving end”.

What unfolded at Johannesburg can only be described as absolute carnage. The West Indian bowlers were annihilated by the Proteas batsmen, dominated by the captain Abraham Benjamin de Villiers.  The South African skipper shredded the record books at the New Wanderers Stadium with his sensational 44-ball 149 that is registered as the fastest century in the cricket history. 

Records galore

Studded with 16 sixes (sharing the record number of sixes with Rohit Sharma) and nine fours during his devastating knock, AB broke the record of New Zealand Corey Anderson’s 36-ball ton (2014).  AB’s  16-ball fifty followed by 31-ball 100, in today's One-Day International against the West Indies, kept the scorers and statisticians busy. The strike-rate flashed a whopping 338.63, whereas he stepped in to the wicket only after the fall of first wicket at 38.3 overs.  From the start of his innings, it was evident that AB was going to make it a special day, but little did anyone, including his own team mates– who were spellbound by his blitzkrieg.

In the fierce contest between fours and sixes from AB’s bat, the boundaries ultimately gave way for the big ones, and the calypsos left to be mere spectators.

A genius of batting innovations

As many as seven bowlers tried their luck, but … not today! The decimation inflicted on the bowlers, instead of making the rivals numb, turned them into AB’s fans, on the field. The helplessness of the bowlers was writ large on their faces, ball after ball sailing over the boundary ropes. The odd dot-balls,  far and few, reflected disbelief in the fielding side and the spectators alike.

Though the openers Hashim Amla (153 n.o.) and Rilee Rossow (128) posted an opening partnership of 247 runs, the captain’s domination was loud and clear to finally post a record total of 439/2 in 50 overs.  What stood out more than how much he scored or how much he spurred the team to an almost surreal total, was the way in which he dominated the rival bowling attack.  He took on every bowler and sent each one of them on a leather hunt, producing the big shots at will, and reached his century at frenetic 31 balls in an exhibition of ceaseless, remorseless hitting.

Colourful stadium, colourful spectators, colourful  South African team. AB De Villiers richly added content to the colour. The picturesque record appears to be safe and stay with the  ever-entertaining AB for a long time to come.

While it should send jitters to Indian cricket fans with the World Cup around the corner, AB deserves sport-hearted salute.  And if you are an RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) fan, add your extra quota.

You might ask what was the reply by the West Indies.  The flip side to these type of matches is that it makes the second half of the game a mere formality.

A magic indeed!


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Blogging as an academic tool in classroom

Blogging as an academic tool in classroom

CS Krishnamurthy , Jan 15, 2015, DHNS

Learn online, Easy usage, zero technicalities and ageless appeal, blogs are the new teachers on the block. CS Krishnamurthy describes the many benefits

The knowledge revolution has transformed our homes , jobs and our lives. It is therefore, apparent that it will also transform our education system. 

To keep pace with a globalised technological culture, we must rethink how to educate the next generation and the vision should go beyond the walls of the classroom to include online social networks, distance learning with anytime, anywhere access, digital schooling models and more.

Blog, a utility that solidifies the use of technology, is a great resource for the 21st century teacher and student. Blogs open up a whole new door to collaborative learning, incorporating the tools that are not only useful, but peak the interest of a new generation of learners.

With the increasing influence of internet in our lifestyle, the phenomenon of blog stands out as a fine example of the way in which the Web enables individual participation in the marketplace of ideas. This web-publishing tool helps to self publish text, art, cartoons, and also helps you to create hyperlinks.

Changing attitudes

Many students find writing to be a tedious chore. While many write just to finish an assignment, others write to gain marks. Blogging can change these attitudes. Classroom blogging not only excites students about their work, but also hones their writing, reading, comprehension, critical thinking and communication skills. 

Typically, when students write essays in school, their work is mostly read by their teachers. Students spend hours together on Shakespeare, wars and history only to find one single person evaluate the end result. Blogging will help get a greater audience for every published piece. It goes beyond academic significance, as the audience is global and any one can read and even respond. 

One of the major advantages of blog is its easy usage and the minimum need for technical knowledge. Unlike many traditional websites, blogs are flexible in design and can be experimented with easily. Most importantly, students will find them convenient and accessible via home or library computer. 

Students reticent in face-to-face learning environments may be more comfortable with blogging for expressing their creative thoughts. Sometimes, the fast-paced teaching in the classroom disconnects students from the rest. Blogs will bridge that gap and help them cope up with the current teaching. Also, personal publishing via web-blogs can be a meritorious practice because it promotes self learning in a major fashion.

Teachers can blog too

Blogs can be utilised by teachers also. They can use it to send notices, post assignments, project updates, instructional tips and even have a Q&A Board for daily classes. This serves as a perfect platform for online mentoring too. Traditional classes can take a toll on the young minds. Using blogs, educators can give an interesting twist to their teaching. This also helps to keep the curiosity alive in the classroom. 

Teachers can make use of the internet, where knowledge isn’t a lecture, but is an interactive social process and is the starting point for a healthy dialogue. The fact that many educators across boards are using social media to teach is not very surprising as there is a rise in the concept of blended learning and flipped classroom strategies.

A class or a group blog enables students to discuss topics outside the classroom, where each and every student has equal opportunities to share their views. Reading the blogs of their peers may spur the students to read, analyse and question more. Group blogging will also allow for better transfer of knowledge and enhance the vocabulary skills at a faster pace.

Blogging can unleash the hidden capabilities of aspiring writers and stimulate expression of ideas and interests in real time. Learners need real opportunities for writing and publishing the knowledge they have acquired over time. Having the chance to publish their perceptions online, students can craft and often revise their writings, thereby providing a rich and satisfying learning ambience. Thanks to their ageless appeal, blogs can be used throughout the educational spectrum, from grammar to graduate school, as well as by faculty members who wish to share their research projects.

But students have to be made aware of the risks involved in blogging. As blogs can be viewed publicly, students must be trained on issues regarding access to privacy, security and free expression. Also, since blogs have no publisher, producer or editor, students must carefully consider the content of posts to avoid defamatory or libelous content.

The philosophy of blogs in classroom teaching is to impart students with lateral skills that can be used in a number of disciplines. Educators are increasingly becoming more interested in the ability to leverage social media tools to facilitate engagement with course material and encourage the learning process, while the digital revolution has hit education with more and more classrooms plugged into the whole wired world. Blogs are one of the best ways to tap into the learning potential of today’s online generation.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Score-cards, Statistics and Sachin Tendulkar’s autobiography

Sachin Tendulkar is one of the most written about, and the 486-page title “Sachin Tendulkar: Playing it my way - My Autobiography is all about how many runs he scored, the landmarks reached, how he hauled the bowlers, the injuries, how unlucky he was due to some umpiring decisions….  Feedback by now would have enlightened the cricketer that writing is an altogether different format, as the bulk of the book is a perfunctory recall of matches, prima facie has no grip or the punch. If you  believe the icon  pursued the game with impeccable passion, the life story had to be equally riveting.

The “Childhood” chapter makes a joyful read in an otherwise dozy and prosaic printed pages bound together.  The sulking child getting the bicycle he wanted from his parents by adopting  adamant pranks, …having scored 24 runs and ‘acceded’ with a reporter to make it  30 to abet his name appearing in print … all appeared to blend the reader with reality, though the bond was short-lived.

After reading his debut against Pakistan, the rest of the matches sounded more like running –commentary.  “In the Final at Wankhade on November 6 (1996), I scored 67 in our modest 220, with Jadeja adding 43, and it was all down to Anil Kumble, who took four wickets as we bowled the South Africans out for 185….”.  You are hacked when you turn page after page with something of this sort moving at a listless pace.

For youngsters, the  memoir could motivate how hard-work is key to success, amid series of injuries suffered.  A broken finger, fractured toe, tennis elbow, groin problems...  “The injection, which was pretty painful, was the first of a hundred or more cortisone injections over the course of my career”, said the cricketer of records, the excruciating details about the injury-ridden career reflecting his unflinching focus.

The normally restrained Sachin shows his other dimensions …

Greg Chappel,  Ian Chappel, Kapil Dev,   Rahul Dravid’s  declaration at Multan, how taking losses so personally that affected Sachin’s captaincy…  BCCI held in high esteem  and on administration … Shhhh…. 

Sachin will always be hated for not standing by Saurav Ganguly when ‘Dada’ spoke against Coach Greg Chappel.  All the news that Chappel came to India to destroy Indian cricket or with some motive is a far-fetched logic, as we are only too familiar that most Indian cricketers don’t retire on their own, but compelled to do so.  While some of Rahul Dravid’s  gem of the innings hardly gets noticed, the autobiographer was generous in devoting three full pages ranting about the ‘controversial’ declaration, which  provides fodder for those who say Sachin plays for numbers.   His fascination for statistics is, nevertheless, more obvious in his writing. 

The master also blasted Ian Chappel for criticising his form and urging him to hang the boots. Back in 2007, Ian Chappel had written that Sachin should look at the mirror to query himself if he is good enough to continue playing cricket. “I showed him the size of the mirror in 2008 when we toured Australia.  He should have realised that the man he is asking to stand in front of the mirror has played more cricket than him”, Sachin settled through his memoir.

While the tidbits of how he faced a particular tactic by a fast bowler, attacking Shane Warne, mastering Dale Steyn, the mind games played and strategies adopted to outthink the opposition … makes up interesting reading, he doesn’t reason why his attacking instincts subdued in the later side of his career and the thread that accompanied it. 

He talks about his love for cars, but  silent on the red Ferrari issue.  His relationship within his family, with his team mates, his love for food, besides very few anecdotes are broadly the highlights. There is an overdose of Anjali’s sacrifices,  and repetitions galore in an otherwise first-person chronology of his career.  The finer points of his batting technique might interest the keen followers of the game and the pictures studded can be a collector’s delight.  His ‘stint’ as a Member of Rajya Sabha does not find any marked mention.

More score cards, less substance

The bulky book is woefully thin on many intimate moments as much as the title also seriously suffers from poor narrative pacing.  Incidents like his encounters with Glenn McGrath, his IAF captain’s status, MSD’s leadership ability, 1999 World Cup disaster, …. failed to find space under the maestro’s pen, the holistic silence on “match-fixing” the most startling. Even if it is conceded that he had little knowledge of the corrupt activities of some his own team-mates, it is deplorable that he doesn’t have an opinion on it either.

If Sachin preferred to keep mum on international players, at the least, he could have shared his deeper thoughts on his relationship with his own team mates and the  dressing room aura, tone and mood. Probably, is it because nobody expects a person who has steered of any controversy during his playing tenure, to create one at this stage.  An exclusive chapter deals with the way pressure built up on him due to the evading milestone of the 100th 100.  He vividly remembers his hero Sir Viv Richards for the inspiration to continue when the trying times of retirement contemplation haunted him.

Bits and pieces
  • Arjun Tendulkar doesn’t like his father to be criticised.  When a school friend blamed Sachin for India losing, ‘Arjun punched the boy and told him not to say anything bad about his father again”.
  • A foodie, Sachin learned how to use “lettuce leaves to construct a wall so that the size of the bowl which was normally two to three inches tall increased to five or six inches.  We would then fill it with as much salad as wanted”.
  • “I was hurt when BCCI sacked me as a captain”.
  • Kapil Dev’s thought process was limited to leaving the running of the team to the captain, and hence he did not involve himself in strategic discussions that would help on the field”.
  • “Every time I look back at the footage of my first century, I realise that celebrating was not something that came naturally to me”.
  • Sachin reveals how an IPL team owner lets his priest decide which players leave the hotel rooms first on match days, while another has dressing rooms arranged in Feng Shui style.
  • The batting hero shares that one day a stomach-upset prompted him to play with tissues inside his underwear.  Destpite (t)issues, he went on to score a patient 97 against S/Lanka.  (I hope no hardcore Sachin fans start worshipping those ‘fragrant’ tissues!).
Last word on the Co-author

Boria Majumdar failed to ferret out the best out of the life story. The what, where and when have been accorded the priority over the why and how. The ghosted autobiography read more like a flawed document, failing to escort the reader.  The historian should have enlisted the  services of a good sub-editor and trimmed the book-size to at least half, if not less.

 “Amazon” ensured their quality delivery, but Sachin …


Saturday, 29 November 2014

The death of Phillip Hughes and the dilemma of a fast bowler

Photo credit: PTI

To sad, too soon... accidents arrive unannounced

Phillip Hughes’ death undoubtedly rocked nations, borders and cultures.  The news produced a deep hurt among all cricket lovers, while it is extremely sad that such a promising player had been cut short in his prime.  Freakish though, as reports suggest that the hit “millimeters either side could have saved him with a mere concussion”.  The leather ball, weighing 160 grams, was travelling at 135 km speed when it left the bowler’s arm to strike “Hughes under the helmet behind the left ear”.  Some biomechanical experts say the impact is “similar to being hit by a bullet”.    

While it is sad day for the game for sure,  a section of the media and cricket fans, as expected, have kickstarted the debate if the “bouncers” (known as “bumpers” in the earlier days) should be banned.  There are cries for the bouncer to be outlawed, and on the face of it, the arguments are compelling.  But one of the reasons Hughes’ tragedy has hit home so hard is its rarity.  Bouncers are used  tactically to drive the batsman back on to his back foot if he has been freely playing his front foot shots.  To this end, they are more or less directed at the line of the batsman’s body, which is not illegal provided the ball bounces on the pitch. Aiming the batsman’s head without bouncing on the pitch is “beamer”, which is illegal.

Momentary reactions should be kept at bay

As former England captain Michael Vaughan recently said: “The bouncer is such an important part of the game.  It is a test of mental toughness.  It is designed to put the batsman off his game, upset his front foot movement and get his head in the wrong position, which is what batting is all about.  I hope that does not change”.  The essence of good batsmanship is the ability to stroke and defend, both off the front foot and the back foot.  Banning the bouncer would produce more kids and less cricketers.  A debate, nevertheless, would continue in the coming days, but it is ill-advised to make snap judgements. 

Any attempt to redefine “the bouncer” would be a major regression to the game, which is already pro-batsman (with fielding restrictions, power plays, limits on number of bouncers in an over, high quality bats ….) than it ever used to be. Again, forbidding bouncers would be ineffective, because occasionally a bowler would accidentally at least, break the rule.  Also, coming generations may not learn how to avoid being hit in the head or the rib cage …; where it would make injuries more likely, not less.  

Batsmen in the pre-helmet days relied on agility and a good eye.  All glory to those stalwarts like Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar, Viv Richards, Gary Sobers, G.R. Vishwanath ……  Same delivery. Some defend.  Some hits six.  Some gets out.  Some injured.  In some sports, dire risk is a constant companion.  A single punch in Boxing at the wrong place can kill.  In F1, a miscalculation can decimate in seconds. 

Mark Boucher, Stuart Broad, Raman Lamba
Photo credit: India Today
Australian duo, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, and the Caribbean pacers of the seventies and the eighties were allowed to bowl all day with barely any one, not even the umpire, took any objection.  Viv Richards underwent psychiatric treatment after being at the receiving end of Lillee and Thomson in 1975-76, while Don Bradman said it was “a wonder more batsmen were not seriously injured”.

Aussies, Proteas ….take great pride in the bouncy nature of their wickets.  This  meant that a ball that normally would need to be pitched quite short anywhere else in the world to come up to the head height, can be pitched just short of a length on most Aussie/South African pitches.  Means the ball is going to gear up at an awkward angle in Oz.  It is time some parameters are in place regarding the hardness of the pitch.  It goes the other way in India with the ball hardly going over ankle height!

The game should go on

The simple fact is Hughes’ death was the culmination of numerous factors that cluster to create the perfect storm.  Replays suggest that Hughes head had turned away from the ball as he was still playing the hook.  Had he kept his eye on the ball, at worst, the ball would have hit him on the grill, rather than on neck.  According to Kevin Pieterson, “He (Hughes) did not have a classic batting technique, but he was able to score runs his own way”.  The game of cricket tests everything of a batsman, bouncer inclusive, only then the comprehensive ability is best ascertained.  The helmet manufacturer has reportedly said that Hughes was not wearing the latest version which is far more protective.

A fast bowler would probably say that banning bouncers is akin to banning cover-drives. It is part of the game. In cricket, fielders are also prone to serious risk. Raman Lamba, Mark Boucher, Saba Karim instantly comes to mind. What one would question though is the quality of the pitches, helmet designs, player’s behavioural pattern (like sledging, verbal intimidation….) Sledging that involves threats such as Michael Clarke advising an opponent that he is about to get a broken arm should be outlawed, as it sends a wrong message to youngsters that it is okay to break some one’s arm in the name of sport.
Photo credit: Telegraph

In the modern version of the game, the batsman reverse-sweeps, scoop-hits (Dil-scoop) – and can miss and get gravely injured.  The game is played across the length and breadth of the country in grounds and gullies, with inferior gears, poor pitches and no first-aid, and one can even without bouncers, get hurt. 

If cricket is  not prepared for the funeral of a 25-year old Australian batsman, who was in the process of returning to national duty, then the process of feeling “normal” about cricket will take longer time. To sum up, in the words of Australian pacer Stuart Clark, “as a fast bowler you’ve got to intimidate. That’s part of the game.  It’s been part of the game for a long period of time now and I hope it will  always be”.  

A tiger without ferocity, a cobra lacking venom, and a fast-bowler sans bouncer is not in line with established nature.    Improving the helmet design and better coaching on how to negotiate a raising delivery are a more logical response to the tragedy.  The cricketing fraternity, in the meantime, should wholeheartedly support the cause of restoring Sean Abbott’s normalcy,ensure his return to the run-up with the new ball, and delete the dilemma of a fast bowler.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Making childhood safe for children is becoming an overwhelming task

Bangalore again. The garden city first turned to 
garbage city and now becoming infamous for 
rape city.

Image courtesy:
A three-year-old girl child in Bangalore was allegedly sexually abused at the private school she attends. "We have registered a criminal case late Tuesday (Oct.21, 2014) on a complaint by the victim's father that his young daughter was sexually abused in the Orchid International School premises," said Police Inspector TC Venkatesh. "We are checking the footage of the closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed in the school and questioning its staff and faculty," he added.

According to the police complaint filed by her father, the child "had signs of fever and complained to her mother that she was physically abused by someone she did not know or recognize."

The public anger of the Bangalore VIBGYOR High (School) rape incident reported about a couple of months ago is still lingering, while more grisly spectacles make a beeline to grab the pungent headlines. It is bad enough that the alleged rape occurred in the  campus sanctity, the accused, yet again, a staff.  Are more students being raped?  Are more rapes reported?  Has the definition of rape become diluted that more incidents being red-flagged? Is rape avoidance a feminine responsibility?  Or, are we failing collectively?

How is it that a three-year old tot was left alone for this to happen at any given point of time while at school?  Even when the child has to use the rest room she must be accompanied by a helper staff.  Someone knows the answer there.  Fortunately, the abuser cannot invoke the familiar defence that it had been consensual sex. 

While the recent beastly Delhi gang-rape is not yet fixed, more such heinous crimes are unfolding all over the country.  While the current laws and the concomitant loopholes enable abusers to escape punishment, many rape cases fail to result in rape law enforcement, thanks to the systemic inadequacies that render the criminal law ineffective in responding to and preventing such violence.  To get a conviction, current law requires prosecutors prove a suspect acted with “depraved indifference”, which is a high bar to clear, especially since most child abuse takes place in private.

A less-scrutinised explanation may be  the campus  grievance process itself  oriented towards the protection of perpetrators than the vindication of survivors. While the child abuse is more than a passing issue to be bantered about by talk show hosts, the community leaders must come up with preventive strategies.   It is not enough to warn a child to keep off strangers.  By now, we might have told our children about “good and bad touches”, but don’t miss to caution that it is often from someone we know and trust.  Keep an eye on a lesser known but growing category of molesters – children who perpetrate sexual crimes  upon children younger than themselves, as  nearly half of all sex offenders are juveniles. 

The common trouble spots include lack of a sexual assault response policy and underreporting of campus crime statistics.   Studies also indicate that victims who have not come to terms with the abuse they suffered as children, will, in time, repeat the same destructive patterns.  The educational institutions should adopt some promising practices to prevent and manage sexual assault.  The campus  programme should include comprehensive education about rape myths, common circumstances under which the crime occurs, prevention strategies, rape trauma responses….. along with a sexual assault policy clarifying all forms of sexual misconduct, and provide  reporting options. As campus grievance procedures are civil in nature, the sexual offenders are found “responsible”, not “guilty”.

The strongest punishment schools can deliver is to expel a rapist from campus which can be valid for cheating on a Physics final, not for a felony on par with murder.  Campus judicial systems aren’t designed to address that sort of defence.  A system run by corporates will always try to  put the school’s interests above that of the victims. Probing sexual assault complaints and meting out punishment should be a police matter, handled by personnel trained to deal with such highly complex cases, as these are tough crimes to investigate, as rape is more than a violation of campus discipline.

Students should be surveyed annually about sexual violence on campuses and the results made public and present a more accurate picture of campus life, while they  also must take responsibility for protecting themselves and be mindful that alcohol and drug use can lower their defence which can target them easy prey.

Beware of illusions

We owe it to our children to remember that the next generation of molesters is emerging from this generation.   Become aware of our own bias – our illusions that cloud our judgement by making us believe that we live in a much kindlier and gentler world than is really the case.  “Rape culture” is deemed as the set of widely held social and cultural beliefs that tend to make sexual abuse invisible and inevitable.  

Image courtesy: The Hindu
Few campus rapes are reported, fewer prosectuted. National Crimes Bureau Annual Report confirms that “rapes are committed in all states as well as the rapists belong to all castes, communities, colours and regions of India and abroad”, adding that “a woman is raped somewhere in India every 20 minutes , and the number of children raped has increased by 336 per cent  in the last 10 years”.

It is disturbing that our children are so trivialised  as to become the objects of exploitation and their innocence is sought to be destroyed for perverted greed.  When sexual violence occurs on campus and authorities fail to adequately respond, there is a fundamental breakdown in educational mission.  Men who treat women with respect can play a big role in preventing the crime.   Human Rights activists who fight capital punishment should propose meaningful inputs.  The children need to be protected, not labeled as tramps.