SUPPORT: The US had pledged both armed support and finance to help Ukraine to resist Russia.

By Rajan Narayan

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when I remember how I experienced of caste bias during my long ago three-week stay in Bodhgaya during the Bihar famine. For a Saturday following the week when there’s increasing fear of a 3rd World War breaking out due to the continuing war clashes in Ukraine. For a Saturday following the week when Starbucks, KFC chicken and McDonalds have replaced traditional Goan ros-omlet, pav or puri-batat bhaji and south Indian coffee. For a Saturday following the week when the big technology giants continue laying off large numbers of their staff. For a Saturday following the week when India is replacing China as the hub for making smartphones, including the latest I-phone.
AND a few stray thoughts for the week that was when I remember how I experienced caste bias during my three-week stay in Bodhgaya during the Bihar famine. I was a 12th standard student in Bengaluru and an active member of the American Cultural Center. This was the time when John F Kennedy, the American president, used to encourage young American students to engage in social service in other parts of the world.
This was the time of there was a famine on in Bihar and many people faded away and died of starvation. At one of the meetings, I remember the American director lamenting that Indians youths were not willing to serve their own people. When I pointed out that the American Peace Corp volunteers were getting a $1,000 while many of us Indian students would like to help out but don’t have the resources, he said if I go to Bihar with the volunteers I will be paid.
I took up the challenge of the United States Center director to go as a volunteer to go and help out in the distribution of aid in Bihar. I was located in a remote village which was 40 km away from Bodhgaya, off the main highway. Incidentally, Bodhgaya is famous because it is the place where the Lord Buddha received enlightenment sitting beneath the Bodhgaya or peepal tree. In the village I stayed with the local priest who took care of my basic needs. The situation was horrifying. Not only humans but cattle were dying virtually by the minute on the streets. Our task was to offer as much assistance is possible without engaging in charity.
We encouraged the villagers to dig wells so that at least they need not suffer for want of drinking water. Regrettably, the locals were so lazy that even though the water was available at 5 feet below the ground they would not make the effort to pool resources and do the digging along lines prescribed. We had to constantly encourage and prod them to at least commence work on the digging of wells. In return, we gave them rations of rice, wheat, oil and other basic requirements.
What really shocked me was the caste prejudices even in a starvation situation like this one. Attempts were made to prevent us from supplying essential commodities to the harijans or the lower untouchable caste. When we resisted these attempts we were threatened with violence. However, the warning that we would withdraw from the village altogether forced the upper castes to co-operate so that all got their rations.
Bihar is still a state with some of the poorest villages in India. Education levels are poorest even up north. They were hardly any industrial units to provide jobs to the uneducated. Bihar accounts for the largest number of migrant labor going out to the other states of the country for jobs. Bihari labor dominates the newspaper distribution business in Mumbai. Even in Goa there is a sizable population of Bihari people.

AND a few stray thoughts when there are increasing fears that a third world war is inevitable due to the continuing war in Ukraine. The provocation for the war between Ukraine and Russia needs to be understood. Ukraine was part of the United Soviet Socialist Republic before it split into independent states. Ukraine is a very rich natural resources state and has the biggest nuclear reactor in the world called Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
The government of Ukraine has been keen on joining the European Economic Community (EEC). The EEC is a third force which seeks to remain independent of the superpowers, the United States and Russia. The EEC has the full support of the United States and has its own defense forces which are called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. There is free movement between the EEC countries and no passports or visas are needed for taking up any job. It was such a facility which encouraged Goans in large number to take up the Portuguese citizenship so that they could travel freely to Portugal and then on to England and work there as it was a member of the EEC.
Though the EEC has its own defense forces it is protective and not offensive force. The NATO does not have the military strength to combat Russia. It is because Ukraine is keen on joining the EEC that Russia started a war against it. The biggest supporter of Ukraine is the United States and of course the EEC countries. The major fear is that China might decide to align with Russia and revive the east-west conflict. If this happens instead of just surveillance balloons floating over the US there is a risk of a buttons being pressed to unleash a nuclear war in which the entire world will be affected regardless of whether they like it or not.

AND a few stray thoughts on when Starbucks and KFC chicken and McDonalds and Taco Bell have replaced our Goan ros-omlet, bhaji-pav and traditional south Indian coffee. The middle class Indian has a western bias. He believes that everything western is superior to everything Indian. It all started with Dominos pizza entering the country. For the middle class and the rich and the famous it became an alternative to Indian snacks like idli-dosa and puri-bhaji followed by south Indian coffee.
The middle class was also quick to abandon traditional chicken kabab in favor of KFC chicken drumstick buckets of various sizes and of course the ubiquitous potato fries. The KFC chain is so popular it is spreading successfully. What is it about these potato fries that children and adult like to hog on them after squeezing plastic packets of tomato ketch-up on them? Like KFC, McDonalds is equally popular with young people. The curious part is that the middle class, even though many of them can’t afford it, they prefer hamburger of a fried chicken to Indian snacks.
It is not only in the areas of food that the upper, middle class and the rich and the powerful afford buy imported “maal” instead of local home food snacks. From cosmetics to jeans most of it is imported. The irony is that jeans for instance are actually manufactured by small-scale units in India and then re-imported as foreign goods. Indians will soon decide that they only buy the Ikea Swedish furniture which has set up outlets in Bengaluru. Puma and Nike have been here for decades and are popular even with the lower middle class. The largest market for the latest I-phone is India. What if it costs Rs1.5 lakh as long as it is available in instalments?

AND a few stray thoughts on the big technology giants continue to lay of large numbers of their Indian staff. Amazon recently announced it is sacking over a lakh employees worldwide. Twitter is in a mess and the worst victims are the program managers. Microsoft and Google are also cutting down on staff primarily due to the increasing strict regulations being imposed by countries on the secrecy of their operations.
Google for instance has had to pay a fine in Europe for stealing matter and using material from magazines and newspapers without permission. The future of the high tech industries having been further affected by the competition between Google and Microsoft Chatbot.

AND a last stray thought on when India is replacing China as the hub for making smartphones, including the latest I-phone. China’s loss is India’s gain. Ironically, the country which has been accused of introducing the Covid-19 pandemic has itself been facing a very serious corona virus epidemic.
This resulted in the closure of some of the biggest factories manufacturing smartphones and other electronic components. Microsoft is planning to move a significant part of its production including I-phone production. Vivo is also planning to shift its factories to India. A major attraction is the fact that India has the largest number of smartphones in the country. Thanks partly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who forced parents to buy their children smartphones, so that they could communicate with their teacher during the pandemic lockdowns. India perhaps doesn’t realize that all the digital technology productions will also add and lead to the already mammoth techno waste becoming mountainous in India and where will all the re-cycling units dump their waste after the silver and gold a copper and whatever else has been dug out by a largely poor labor force in terrible workshops in Delhi and other places. Is Indian life so cheap for the Western and Hindu government powers-that-be like it always has been? Perhaps China is cleaning up its act while India is happy to take over to become the largest junkyard in the world.

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