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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped Youth

EDITORIALS

Move faster on the corrupt
It is time CBI gets to the root of the scams

T
he
CBI has at long last conducted raids on the residences and offices of Commonwealth Games (CWG) organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and has intensively interrogated former Telecom Minister A. Raja in connection with what is widely being recognized as two of the biggest scams in post-Independence India.

No mercy for Naxalites
But is Binayak Sen really culpable?

T
he
life imprisonment awarded to noted human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen (and two others) by Raipur Sessions Judge B.P. Verma on Friday who found them guilty of sedition and criminal conspiracy has expectedly evoked mixed reactions in the country. Whatever stand one may take on the quantum of punishment meted out to Dr Sen or his own criminal culpability, Chhattisgarh bears witness to the maximum number of killings by the Naxalites this year with nearly 800 deaths (civilians and police personnel). 



EARLIER STORIES

Private security: Coping with new realities
December 26, 2010
Rampant food inflation
December 25, 2010
Destructive politics
December 24, 2010
Withdraw agitation
December 23, 2010
PM’s offer to face PAC
December 22, 2010
Taking on corruption
December 21, 2010
Row over Rahul’s remark
December 20, 2010
Intelligence is gathered from ‘friends’
December 19, 2010
Trade to cement ties
December 18, 2010


Reducing N-weapons
New START kindles hope for a safer world

T
he
New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also called New START, signed by the US and Russia in April 2010 is on the way to becoming operational with its ratification by the American Senate last week. The Senate vote in favour of the treaty is a big morale booster for President Barack Obama after his party suffered serious reverses in the recent Congressional elections, which threatened to derail his nuclear vision aimed at reducing the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. 

ARTICLE

Fighting for PAC and JPC
Parliamentary system gets threatened
by Kuldip Nayar
P
OLITICS in India has been so much denigrated that it has become a topic of contempt. Both the Congress and the BJP, the two main parties, are responsible for it. They have come to the level of hurling abuse at one another, much to the exasperation of the people.



MIDDLE

Performing arts
by Harish Dhillon
I
was recently invited to attend an inter-school competition of performing arts. An invitation I could not accept, because of a bout of illness. I was troubled by this loss because I have always had great admiration for anyone who can perform well on stage.



OPED YOUTH

The Great Divide
One usually thinks that the youth constitutes a single homogenous group. Far from it, there are internal divisions. One of the most conspicuous ones is the urban-rural divide. For students from rural areas and small towns, it is an uphill task to bridge the gap.
Shelly Narang
A
swanky SUV parks itself in front of the college gate, and a young man glides out, adjusting deftly his shades as he makes a theatrical entry into the campus each day. Standing out of the same gate are other students obscured by the heat and the dust into an indistinguishable herd, waiting for their buses to arrive. In many educational institutions across India, this divide enacts itself out, almost every other day.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…
Rajeev Ranjan
A
commerce graduate from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, with a good academic record, around 4 years of job experience in reputed companies and the BIG one, a visit to Harvard University to represent India in a 15-day conference as part of a delegation of 10, which was fully paid. It was I don't know how achievable it sounds to someone, but when I look at it, a few years back, it seemed impossible and improbable.

 


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Move faster on the corrupt
It is time CBI gets to the root of the scams

The CBI has at long last conducted raids on the residences and offices of Commonwealth Games (CWG) organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and has intensively interrogated former Telecom Minister A. Raja in connection with what is widely being recognized as two of the biggest scams in post-Independence India. Considering that both scandals had surfaced several months ago and the close aides of these powerful men were interrogated over the last few months, the delay in taking any form of action against Kalmadi and Raja has understandably led to doubts whether the delays were a means to allow them to cover their flanks. This interpretation may sound cynical but CBI’s the record in dealing with those wielding power has been largely inglorious. An impression has got embedded in many minds that it tends to be soft on the ‘big fish’ and is not insulated from governmental and/or bureaucratic and corporate pressures. It is now up to the premier investigating agency to prove the skeptics wrong.

In the case of the Commonwealth Games, three of Mr Kalmadi’s aides —-T.S. Darbari, Sanjay Mahindroo and M. Jeyachandran — were arrested on accusations of forgery, cheating and financial wrongdoing in one case of a contract given to UK-based A.M. Films for display units during the Queen’s Baton Relay in London. There are other instances of suspicious dealings which would come under the scanner.While the CBI has yet to establish Kalmadi’s link, despite the delay, the seizures from his residences in Pune, New Delhi and Mumbai and offices should yield some leads. Likewise, Raja’s grilling by CBI sleuths should put the investigators on to some clues on the beneficiaries of the 2G scam and the places where they have parked their ill-gotten wealth.

The real test is of the will of the investigators. This is a chance for the CBI to redeem itself and for the UPA government to show that it is not out to protect those who may have participated in defrauding the national exchequer. Action on both the 2G and Commonwealth Games fronts has been slow and uninspiring. All eyes are now on the future to see whether the prosecution means business.

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No mercy for Naxalites
But is Binayak Sen really culpable?

The life imprisonment awarded to noted human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen (and two others) by Raipur Sessions Judge B.P. Verma on Friday who found them guilty of sedition and criminal conspiracy has expectedly evoked mixed reactions in the country. Whatever stand one may take on the quantum of punishment meted out to Dr Sen or his own criminal culpability, Chhattisgarh bears witness to the maximum number of killings by the Naxalites this year with nearly 800 deaths (civilians and police personnel). The brutal manner in which the Maoists have been killing innocent people and the Central Reserve Police Force and state police personnel in this state has few parallels in history. The Naxalites have become a state within a state and have launched an armed rebellion against a duly elected state government. Thus, a clear message has to be sent across the state — and the nation — that violence will not be tolerated and its perpetrators will have to be dealt with sternly in accordance with the law.

As for Dr Binayak Sen’s conviction, in view of the doubts about “weak” and “no direct” evidence against him, the ends of justice will be met only if the whole case is re-examined by the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur. According to the prosecution, the main evidence against him was the “letter” purportedly written to him by Maoists “thanking him for his work”. However, the defence claimed that the letter was in recognition of his medical services and not for his support to their cause. Dr Sen also met Narayan Sanyal, a Maoist ideologue, 33 times in jail in 35 days in 2007 and acted as a “courier” between him (Sanyal) and Piyush Guha, a Kolkata businessman. However, jail officers have testified in the court that both talked in Hindi in their presence and there was no exchange of letters during any of these meetings.

While it remains to be seen how the Chhattisgarh High Court would view this case, there are Supreme Court guidelines on how to deal with such cases. For example, in 2009, the apex court ruled that though conviction can be based on circumstantial evidence, in cases where evidence is circumstantial in nature, “all facts need to be based on hypothesis…and no alternative hypothesis should be possible.” In another judgement, it ruled that “the charge of sedition can be upheld only if the prosecution can prove that the accused attempted to incite violence or public disorder.” Dr Sen indeed has to fight it out in the High Court to prove his innocence.

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Reducing N-weapons
New START kindles hope for a safer world

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also called New START, signed by the US and Russia in April 2010 is on the way to becoming operational with its ratification by the American Senate last week. The Senate vote in favour of the treaty is a big morale booster for President Barack Obama after his party suffered serious reverses in the recent Congressional elections, which threatened to derail his nuclear vision aimed at reducing the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. Early this year his administration had come out with what was called the Nuclear Posture Review, which assured the global community that the US would not launch a nuclear attack on a non-nuclear country and would end nuclear tests for the production of more weapons of mass destruction.

The aims to be achieved under the New START and the declarations made through the Review kindle the hope for a safer world in the days to come. The new treaty, which had no difficulty in getting ratified by the Russian parliament because of the ruling party there having a comfortable majority, will result in the reduction of the US and Russian nuclear weapons to 1500 warheads for each of them. The limit was 2200 nuclear weapons according to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which ceased to remain valid in December 2009. It is true that there are certain kinds of nuclear weapons which are not covered by the New START, and the US and Russia will still have enough bombs — 90 per cent of the total stockpile in the world — to destroy all that exists on the globe many times over. Yet the new treaty can be considered as a welcome move towards a nuclear weapon-free world.

With the New START coming into effect, the Obama administration will be in a better position to force Iran to abandon its controversial nuclear power programme and launch a renewed drive against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. This is, however, not enough to end nuclear proliferation. There is need to have some kind of a system so that China, Pakistan and Israel, too, provide credible proof that they are not adding to their nuclear arsenal. This is necessary to prevent other countries from aspiring to become nuclear powers. 

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Thought for the Day

The end of the law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. — John Locke

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Fighting for PAC and JPC
Parliamentary system gets threatened
by Kuldip Nayar

POLITICS in India has been so much denigrated that it has become a topic of contempt. Both the Congress and the BJP, the two main parties, are responsible for it. They have come to the level of hurling abuse at one another, much to the exasperation of the people.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s offer to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been of little use. When both the right and the left parties have united, which is a rarity, and have stuck to the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum scandal, the PAC offer by the ruling Congress seems to limit the scope of investigation. The Opposition wants to go into the policy of allotment of 2G spectrum relating to mobiles and lay down guidelines for the future. By denying the JPC, the Congress is behaving as if it has something to hide.

There is no doubt that the BJP was the first to throw the gauntlet at the Congress by stalling Parliament. At that time the allegation of corruption was confined to the Commonwealth Games, but then the party expanded the charge when the 2G spectrum scam came to light through the report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, estimating the loss of nearly Rs 1.75 thousand crore.

The Congress was rattled and retaliated by attacking the BJP by name, even though the demand for the JPC was made by most Opposition parties. The Congress leaders also introduced in the attack the charge of communalism against the BJP, a stigma which the party has not been able to wash away.

In turn, the BJP went berserk and criticised not only the Congress-led government but also the Prime Minister, who refused to join issue till then. Yet when more details of the 2G spectrum scam came to light, the government had to force Telecommunication Minister A. Raja to resign. This only whetted the BJP’s appetite.

Dr Manmohan Singh became the BJP’s target. This has, no doubt, made headlines but the BJP has attacked the institution of Prime Minister, the highest executive authority under the Constitution. However tempting it is to be in the news, the Prime Minister should have been treated with respect because everyone knows that Dr Manmohan Singh’s credibility is beyond doubt.

Yet the general perception is that the entire system is rotten and all politicians are corrupt. The Prime Minister must realise that he has lost the most. The impression has gone around that he does not take any action against the corrupt although he knows who they are. This conception is wrong, but he should do something to remove it.

The Congress has changed the gear to switch over to communalism from corruption. The RSS, the mentor of the BJP, is a sitting duck. Congress secretary-general Digvijay Singh even politicised the 26/11 attack on Mumbai by revealing that he had received a telephone call from Hemant Karkare, the police officer who died in the attack, that his life was in danger. Karkare had probed the Malegaon blast and had found the hand of Hindu terrorists. Although the RSS had denounced the charge, a vague kind of feeling has started that there may well be Hindu terrorists.

Amidst all this came the disclosure by WikiLeaks that Rahul Gandhi had told US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer in Delhi about the possibility of Hindu radical groups springing up in reaction to the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Rahul also pointed out that the Hindu radicals were more dangerous for the country than some support for the LeT from a section of the Indian Muslims. The BJP was so angry that it even called Rahul Gandhi “anti-national”.

Sonia Gandhi came to the rescue of her impulsive son and changed his expression into condemnation of terrorism by the majority or the minority. To take the fight right into the Sangh Parivar ranks, the Congress plenary session held a few days ago asked the government to find out the connection between Hindu terrorists and the RSS, something necessary but should not have been tagged with the attack on corruption.

I was amused to read Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s remark that in Rahul’s voice he heard Rajiv Gandhi. This is the height of sycophancy which a senior person like Chidambaram need not have shown after serving the Congress for more than two decades. But probably the party leadership expects that. For Chidambaram’s information, Jawaharlal Nehru would denounce sycophancy in the party all the time.

It is too early to say how the drama that the Congress and the BJP are staging before the cynical public would end. But one thing is sure that the people would like to defeat both parties in the general election, still three years away. Whether this murky atmosphere affects India’s reputation abroad or not is as relevant as is the reaction of an average Indian who feels humiliated and small. And how does he express himself when elections have become a game of the rich?

To have a level-playing field, electoral reforms should be effected so that money does not count much. But both parties do not want to even hear about any reforms in the electoral system. They know that they alone can afford the expense because a candidate standing for a Lok Sabha seat spends somewhere near Rs 10 crore. From where does a clean, deserving person get that kind of money? Either he becomes part of the racket or he loses the election.

The worst is the Rajya Sabha which, thanks to the Supreme Court, has become a House of money-bags, racketeers or those whom the party leaders fancy. The Supreme Court judgment has even endorsed the abolition of secret ballot. Believe it or not, it was a unanimous judgment and the present Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia was one among the five-judge Bench.

The fear expressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the future of parliamentary system has gained ground only because the real representatives of the electorate cannot make it to the House, either at the Centre or in the states. But his remark was because of the standoff in Parliament. India has experienced the stalling of the House by the Opposition parties for three weeks; earlier it was for two weeks by the Congress. The nation can take the boycotts in its stride provided it has the confidence that the representatives in Parliament or the legislatures have come through hard work and credibility, and not through money.

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Performing arts
by Harish Dhillon

I was recently invited to attend an inter-school competition of performing arts. An invitation I could not accept, because of a bout of illness. I was troubled by this loss because I have always had great admiration for anyone who can perform well on stage.

My own first venture into performing took place in 1949. Sanawar, after a century of being a school exclusively for British children, was just waking up to its Indian-ness. Among other things, it had appointed a teacher for Indian dance. This teacher decided to stage a ballet. I was one of the earliest volunteers and also one of the most enthusiastic. I would reach well before anyone and spend endless hours in the dormitories, in practice, much to the amusement of all the other boys.

But I had two left feet and in spite of my enthusiasm, remained awkward and clumsy. The teacher was too kind to tell me this and when the time came for the final selections, she showed great ingenuity in resolving her predicament.

The ballet was based on the conversion of Emperor Asoka and she decided at the last minute, to have Lord Buddha sitting on stage during the final scene:  I was cast as Lord Buddha. .All that I was required to do, was to sit cross legged, with my eyes closed, and my hands in the lotus position. I was not deceived by this ploy and have never attempted to dance again. My next attempt was at singing. I grew up with the conviction that my voice was one of the sweetest sounds in the world. Sadly, no one in my family or amongst my friends made any attempt to correct me.

The disillusionment came, years later, when I sang at a party. I thought I had sung rather well and my friends did applaud with their usual enthusiasm. But my girlfriend said: “Dilly, you are very brave.” I have never again tried to be brave in this manner.

My final attempt at performing came rather late in life. I had returned to Sanawar as a teacher and as part of the Founders’ celebrations, the teaching staff put up a full length play. The moving spirit behind the production was the legendary Mr B. Singh. I had always nurtured secret histrionic ambitions and hoped for a part: I was given the thankless job of prompting instead.

But a few years later, Mr B. Singh did give me a part. I had to walk on in the middle of the third act with a bowl of eggs and announce: “Here are the eggs.”

I worked very hard, not only to learn my line but also to get my queue perfected. Unfortunately, during the final performance, not only did I stumble onto the stage and interrupt a torrid kissing scene but also announced, “Here are the strawberries.” Though I did go on to act in many more plays, I never again nurtured any illusions about my histrionic ability.

This would, perhaps, explain my abiding admiration for all performers.

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OPED YOUTH

The Great Divide
One usually thinks that the youth constitutes a single homogenous group. Far from it, there are internal divisions. One of the most conspicuous ones is the urban-rural divide. For students from rural areas and small towns, it is an uphill task to bridge the gap.
Shelly Narang

A swanky SUV parks itself in front of the college gate, and a young man glides out, adjusting deftly his shades as he makes a theatrical entry into the campus each day. Standing out of the same gate are other students obscured by the heat and the dust into an indistinguishable herd, waiting for their buses to arrive. In many educational institutions across India, this divide enacts itself out, almost every other day.

In the seemingly democratic and fair educational set-ups, equal opportunity learning takes on a rather unequal hue, as the worlds of the English-speaking urban and the seemingly less privileged rural students never really seem to ‘meet’.

What happens to the ones on whom the spotlight never shines? Do they find their own comfort zones to huddle into or do they feel cornered with an acute sense of marginalization? No one really cares to find this out.

Mallika Gupta, an intern in Counselling and Psychotherapies, comments, “It actually depends on the individual concerned. While most of the students get used to the disguised two worlds, there are other more sensitive students in such a situation tend to crawl into a shell.”

The distancing of these students is not limited to expensive clothes, mobile phones, cars and other gadgets but the effects are far more pervasive. The city bred not only blot the others out with sheer money-power but superior communication and better exposure to life get them noticed in the classrooms too, while the others remain mired in abyss of neglect and indifference.

Amandeep Singh, second year (English Hons) SGGS College Sec 26 Chandigarh Students from rural areas are laughed at because of their manner of dressing. They do not mingle with the students from cities who ignore them or mock at them. I have seen many talented and deserving rural students not being selected for various schemes or camps run by the government because of their inability to express themselves in English. Those who are less competent however and can speak English have it easy at a competitive level too.

Amandeep Singh, second year (English Hons) SGGS College Sec 26 Chandigarh

Mallika Gupta, Counselling and Psychotherapies (Intern)Interestingly, sometimes students from rural backgrounds in fact show signs of compensatory behaviour by trying to outdo the more privileged ones by bettering their academic performance. On the negative side, however, friction of egos and resultant clashes are also quite common.

Mallika Gupta, Counselling and Psychotherapies (Intern)

Even in top management institutions, there exists a clear cut division on the campus. Even day-to-day interaction is utterly symptomatic of the unease that exists in the cross-sectional interaction.

Sudhanshu Sharma, Student, MBA 2011 batch, SIMS, Pune

For the rural youth then, who move to the cities to learn, flourish and make an impact, the same becomes an arduous journey as very often one finds them lurking on the sidewalks with some of their hopes taking a real battering.

What these young people find even more disturbing is how the mentors and teachers too seem to patronise or favour the already privileged ones or who are called ‘smart types.’ Amandeep Singh a second year undergraduate student in local city college and a volunteer of NSS comments: “There is a lot of anguish and frustration among this youth. While they have the zeal to perform they find the system very unsupportive. It’s only the well-groomed who are picked up for competitions. Nobody wants to make an effort to train the ‘have-nots’ for a debate or a declamation, because the whole process of ‘finishing’ them would be more rigorous.’

The picture that begins to emerge is, in fact, appalling. There is an affordable canteen for the not so well off and a designer coffee shop for the more ‘comfortable’. Within the classroom, too, the segregation is visibly profound. Idealism is soon snuffed out for these students, as they witness an apathetic environment. The marked differences, far from getting evened out in the course of education, become more pronounced. Sometimes students even find themselves at the receiving end of sarcastic remarks for their dressing sense and pronunciation.

Reactions to the discriminatory behavior vary from person to person. While some uncomplainingly agree to remain in the shadows, others gradually lose interest in the affairs and activities of the day. Some more sensitive students even start harbouring feelings of low self-worth, ranging from short-term feelings of inferiority to a deep-seated disillusionment with society. Radhika Vinayak, a student of Masters in English at University of Mumbai reveals, “Yes, there is a difference but it is perhaps in the first year when one has just emerged from the ‘uniformed’ school life that one finds the variety and its extremes a bit disturbing. But eventually things even out.”

But do things really even out? Or is it that we settle into a mode of acceptance and surrender to the callousness that surrounds us. Differences exist and one encounters them on every pathway. But within the bastions of learning one does not expect these circumstances to become a pretext for meeting out preferential treatment to the luckier ones.

What may be an off-hand dismissal actually tells a sad story of denial an exclusion, which may incidentally snowball into deep-seated emotional hurt, low levels of performance and greater socio-economic inequities, coupled with a sense of antagonism and hostility. A little more sensitivity and effort from the educators to take along the less favoured ones will go a long way in smoothening these ruptures and helping them realise their dreams.

The writer teaches English in a local college

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When the going gets tough, the tough get going…
Rajeev Ranjan

A commerce graduate from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, with a good academic record, around 4 years of job experience in reputed companies and the BIG one, a visit to Harvard University to represent India in a 15-day conference as part of a delegation of 10, which was fully paid. It was I don't know how achievable it sounds to someone, but when I look at it, a few years back, it seemed impossible and improbable.

Coming from a typical Indian village in Jharkhand, with no roads, no electricity, no proper school and of course, Naxalites. With our joint Hindu family, struggling to sustain itself, and trying to save as much as they could, my grandfather took up a teaching job in a government school against the wishes of his family (it was prohibitive for a landlord's son to work for anybody, even if he had financial issues). With all the problems that ailed the region, education was the utmost priority, but in there too, there were limitations like a child couldn't go too far to study. Close by towns with limited resources were the best option.

I studied in the Government Middle School till 8th standard, where most of the teaching was done by my father for whether the school opened was dependent on the teachers turning up, and the student-teacher ratio was badly skewed. A single teacher had to take care of 2-3 classes at a time. That too under a eucalyptus tree, since that many students could not fit in one classroom.

Post that, I was sent to a high school away from my family where the classrooms became hostel rooms at night but it can't be called a boarding school. But it was affordable for every other kid and it worked. I scored the highest marks in my entire class of 80 students in 10th Standard Board exams. Looking at my good marks, it was 'suggested' I take up science as everyone thought I would make an engineer some day. Realistically, I might have, if I had good teachers at Ganesh Lal Agarwal College in Daltonganj (an affordable college in an affordable town). With the vast syllabus in Hindi medium where maths was ganit, chemistry was rasayan shashtra and physics was bhoutiki shashtra, studying almost on my own for two years (11th and 12th) and just one Final exam (there was no semester system in Jharkhand colleges those days), I was only able to score a second class, which was unacceptable to my family. They saw no future in me as I let the family pride down by being one of the most talked about kids in the locality and scoring just a second class.

Owing to my results and some major financial problem in the family, I was left to fend for myself. I took the biggest decision for a kid of my age and left home in June 2004. I came to Ranchi and started to look for a job. But I was equipped with only Hindi; had never heard of a resume and knew nothing about a computer. But, let's just say I, managed to get something to survive.

The next big step was to land in Mumbai with an aim to study and that too without any support. Having heard of St. Xavier's College evening classes for commerce for working students, I aimed to get in but you can imagine how difficult it would be for a non-English speaking student with a very average 12th standard mark-sheet to make it. I almost begged my admission into college by clearing an entrance test and a promise to walk out of college if I didn't perform exceptionally well in the first semester.

The start was not what I had hoped for. Owing to my English, I couldn't ask questions in class and I had no friends to speak to, as I didn't want anyone to know my weakness. But I did what I always do best - staying focused and working hard.

Results came out, and the unknown boy in class stood highest in accounts and got full marks in maths. It was just the boost I needed and from then on, there was no looking back. After a year in Mumbai, I was well versed with English and was working in companies/industry of my choice, had a lot of friends. I was a normal student, except that I was working in order to pay off my expenses.

At the same time, things improved considerably back home. Being the first person from my village to ever have visited the US was, of course, a big deal but it being a fully-paid scholarship was even bigger. People spoke about me to almost everyone they met from neighbouring villages with a sense of pride. Suddenly they had lots of expectations from me. The problems have been around, just that now everything seemed less terrifying and I always knew the way out. I also had to drop a year as I didn't have the savings to pay my hostel dues in my Final Year. I took a break from my work in order to perform well in my university exams and that's why I had to delay my graduation by a year, which was, of course sad, but not as sad as not being a graduate.

Incidentally, the conference at Harvard was on rural development in Asia. Now when I think back, it strikes me that without my background I probably wouldn't have had the credentials to represent my people there, and speak with conviction.

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