Friday, June 28, 2013

Engineering Career in India : Some Aspects that are Often Overlooked !

One of the noticeable changes that occurred in India after it partially adopted the free market economic policies of the Nineteen Nineties, is the mushrooming of engineering colleges in every nook and corner of the country.
Yes, the Government of India has been giving fantastic sops to entrepreneurs to set up engineering colleges in the last few years by setting up the All India Council for Technical Education with statutory powers as delegated and implemented through the provisions of the AICTE Act of 1987 .

As per the published statistics of AICTE, the approved intake capacity of technical institutions to train youngsters in diploma, degree and post graduate degree courses in technical and management fields is going to be nearly 3.5 million in 2012-13 as compared to nearly 1.7 million that existed during 2008-09. A neat 100 % growth in four years ! [See the statistics of AICTE here !]

While this kind of a growth is justifiable on the basis of the number of engineers per thousand population in the developed nations like the USA, South Korea, Japan, etc there are very disturbing realities that cannot be overlooked whether or not the policy planners are willing to recognize it.

Setting up and engineering college or a management institution or any such technical institute is prima facie does not come under the purview of a business activity, though in reality it stands out as a profitable business at least for those who grabbed the opportunities in the very beginning.

Let us examine the process of setting up an engineering college and the likely incomes that are generated by such an institution.

The first step is registering a society or trust which is nothing but a registered association of people with the stated objectives as promoting technical education in the state or country or region. Essentially, there would be a few founder members who cleverly make the bye-laws of the society in such a way that the actual promoters control all issues of managing the society for ever. It is not necessary that the founder members have any knowledge in engineering. If the members are mostly from the same family or friend circle, it would be of much advantage. 

The next step is to mobilize the funds. A negligible sum comes from the membership contribution of the society members. The major sum comes as loans or donations made by the individuals to the society. They need to have at least 10-20 % of the total money required to set up the engineering college initially in the account of the society.

At present, setting up the engineering college initially would require about Rs 5 -10 Crores. Let us see how it works out:
         1. Purchase of about 5-10 acres of land away from the city limits ( the more the better) : Rs 2-5 Cr
         2. Costs of AICTE approval including security deposit:    Rs 1 Cr
         3. Buildings and other infrastructure            : Rs.2-4 Cr 
Now, how to initially finance this amount. Suppose that there are 20 members in the society. Each member contributing Rs.10 Lakhs would make Rs. 2 Cr. That is enough for the society to proceed with their project. The rest of the money could be raised through bank loans or other personal loans.

Initially the AICTE gives temporary green signal to proceed with the allocation of a few branches of engineering and the number of approved seats for each branch of engineering. The trend adopted by the new engineering colleges is to start courses on Computer and Information Technology, Electronics, Electrical, Communication which requires the minimum infrastructure and offer the maximum possibility of various course combinations. In any case, the start up institute gets permission to start 3-4 streams of graduate studies with an intake capacity of about 160 students in an year. 

If the college is fortunate, they get all their seats filled up. If not, they may get around 100 students. There is government patronage in getting the seats filled and in fixing the minimum course fees. As the minimum fee is government determined, the start up engineering college in the first year itself would be in a position to earn about a crore. They manage the finances by paying less initially to the faculty and the staff so that a surplus is generated in the first year itself. Every year the number of students increase to become the maximum in four years time. The revenue of the college (society) by way of student fees now surpasses more than fifty percent of the total money invested. In a few years time, the society cleanly comes out of all debts and would have good sums to spend in improving the infrastructure, beautification and other improvements with money accumulating in its accounts. The society members get back their loans with interest. If the college has survived a decade, the chances are that it becomes a good institute provided the management committee and the staff do their job well. 

Legally, the individual members of the Society which manages the college cannot have any personal gains from the profits of the college. But it should be remembered that the majority Indians do not have any mindset to do any philanthropic work. The simple logic for them is this: If there is no fayada (benefit) why should any one do some work ? So definitely fayada is there. But how this benefit is to be realized is not written in the laws and the statutes. So the unfair siphoning of funds accumulated by collection of hefty fees do take place. The methodologies are the same old practices that are adopted by people who are entrusted with powers to manage. It does not matter whether it is the industry, the NGO, the society or the government department ! Absence of the laws or inadequate check systems or pliable individuals all make these things easier. But at the same time the law enforcement agencies can target any one whimsically if they so desire. This gives the power centres ample scope to control things the way they want. In short, prevalence of arbitrariness becomes the way of governance in a country which claims to be democratic.

Now coming back to the fate of the millions of fresh engineering graduates whose parents spent nearly a million rupees for getting their engineering degrees ! There is no authentic data on how many of them find a useful job. Even then, private estimates by various agencies figure out unemployment levels as high as 30 % among engineering graduates of India. Remember, this is the situation of the present. You can well imagine the situation when the number of graduates double in the near future as planned by AICTE.

Even this unemployment figures could be misleading. The actual could be much higher considering the fact that the majority engineering graduates of any discipline are going to be employed in non engineering jobs including computer software related fields. In the software industry and the BPO industry of India, the markets lie beyond the boundaries of India and no one really knows how far this industry could go like this. Will the software industry bubble burst some day ? What would happen to the millions of Indians and the Indian economy that have now surrendered themselves to an economic activity which they do not really understand with regard to its market dynamics ? In other words, what would happen if the major markets that are outside India change their priorities ? Only foolish people will try to live without contingency plans !

So what are we supposed to do then ? Training engineering graduates and postgraduates in the engineering colleges in huge numbers is one thing. But that is not going to help India getting improvements in engineering expertise in any way. No fresh engineer is good to undertake any real life engineering work with confidence unless he or she gets the opportunity to get trained under experienced seniors for a couple of years. Again no engineering graduate can gain useful experience when opportunities of actual work exposure do not exist. A good number of working engineers in many organizations in India hardly get any useful experience to make them an expert in their field of work.

Indian planners, who are definitely not experienced engineers or technocrats, have forgotten the importance of having matching numbers of trained technicians and engineering supervisors and the importance of them gaining reliable work experiences by doing years of actual work. When India prefers to import equipment and systems from China and other countries, what is clearly forgotten is the opportunities lost in this country to get its people trained in core engineering and technology works.

Operating in this manner without understanding the fundamentals have landed India into a precarious situation. If any one wants to set up a manufacturing base in India, he is posed with the problem of shortage of experienced technicians and engineers. In a competitive world, how can you think of spending huge sums for training all your man power some where else always ? Barring a few, almost every manufacturing facility now India are foreign owned. They may close shop at any given time when things do not move in their favor.

Engineering graduates, post graduates and doctorates who work in the engineering colleges as teaching faculty cannot be considered as engineers with practical experience, in India. This is because of the extremely poor mobility of engineers from industry to academics and vice versa in India. The AICTE which is presently dominated by academicians seem to prevent this from happening for reasons that could be guessed easily. Engineering curricula in India is crammed with theoretical topics which are of practically no use in real life situations in many instances. Engineering colleges and universities need to learn tailoring of the courses for the benefit of the industries where the engineers are going to be employed by mutual interactions. However, due to the impractical approaches by AICTE and the institutions, such a thing can never happen in India as that are happening in developed countries like the USA and some European nations. The result is that India produce more cut-paste engineers who haven't really understood what engineering really is !

Now let me come to the personal side of engineering career. Engineers are the most isolated lot of professionals in the world, even while they do their jobs in teams. This is because, every individual engineer, in most situations of actual engineering, does a unique work most often not really understood by their colleagues, peers or seniors. Their problems are not realized by their family members, their employers or their colleagues who themselves could be engineers. This is true even for those engineers who happen to be modern IT engineers. Engineering in reality is a brain storming work and as human beings are, no one really wants to live with fuming brains always. Thus in real engineering field, a number of engineers learn the tricks of cheating their hardworking colleagues to gain easy benefits. Many times, especially in India, deserving engineers get neglected when clever colleagues snatch their opportunities. In such a situation, most often it so happens that the clever ones get elevated to top positions of technocracy. This complicates the matter further for real working engineers because now it would be their bosses who would do the actions of killing the real engineering and technology work environment. Real brainy engineers would be totally deprived of their opportunities to excel in their fields doing good for the country and the society. The easy goers would be happier and benefited if their organization get an equipment, project or technology from external sources rather than getting it done using their own talents ! Many organizations in India with major stakes in engineering and technology have failed miserably to accomplish their goals or sustain their goals only due to this kind of a situation. Indian engineers due to various reasons become so selfish that they fail to do mentoring their subordinates so that the latter can give their best in their career.

Another aspect which I have noticed is important to be understood in this context. The engineering curricula, as I said earlier, is too theoretical oriented that the young graduates do not get much opportunity to learn professional ethics and other soft skills that are essential in life. At the same time, when many of them proceed to do their management studies, they forget their engineering for all practical purposes. Unfortunately, post graduation and doctorate courses in engineering are more theoretical and are prepared by those who have learnt it in the same manner before. These courses only prepare an engineering graduate to be a teacher of some theoretical aspects  of applied physical sciences and they would no longer be in a position to distinguish between science and engineering. Unlike in other professional courses, engineering has degraded itself to be worth of considering as a professional course. Thanks to the way it proceeded in India in the last few decades.

The degradation is too visible when you notice the eagerness of some technocrats who proudly declare them as management experts and not as engineering experts. They consider engineering as an inferior job. This is a peculiar situation in India. No engineer in high positions in developed nations would ever prefer to say like this. In fact this particular situation has created a situation in India that many engineering organizations are now headed by non-engineers.

If any one has failed the engineering profession, no one else should be blamed. It is the so-called engineers themselves who created such a situation in this country. By creating that kind of a  situation they have knowingly or unknowingly made engineering a free-for-all profession with no value. That is perhaps the reason why the top brain engineers from the IITs and other such institutes are trying their level best to use their education to leave this country seeking better pastures elsewhere where they can use their talents and creativity in a better way !

India needs engineers who can work for India with honor and dignity. India needs to provide its engineers the opportunity to try out their skills without the hassles of constraints and pressure of opportunists. When that is possible, perhaps we could think of keeping pace with our neighbors like China.

At least we would be doing some justice to the million of youngsters who are hopefully spending their moneys and brains to acquire the basic skills in engineering. If we fail to do that, then it would soon be the engineering bubble that is going to burst in India !

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Feel the Urge to Become a Missionary of the Urantia Book !

Some of those near to me appear to be annoyed with my eagerness and enthusiasm to spread the knowledge of the Urantia Book, though I never ever to attempt to preach or divulge the information about it to any one who is not driven by an innate desire to know more. Of course, I feel it my duty to make it known to those who are capable of understanding  the deep knowledge that it contains. Whether they are ignited with the desire to know more is absolutely their own free choice. If they are not, I do not want to become a preacher for them. But if they are willing to know, I would be extremely happy to talk about it.

Unfortunately, I find hardly any one interested in it. Those who are very near to me and those who happen to hear from me about some truths that I gained from this book due to their physical nearness to me should have felt an urge to know more, just as I had felt when I came to know about it first. But unfortunately and sadly I realize that they are not getting the excitement that I got and am getting when I read to comprehend the great truths revealed in this book.

There are those who are my nearest and dearest who feel the urge to tease me by pronouncing the name of the book in some awkward manner. Some of them pronouce it Oo-ran-thya and some others Oo-ran-shya ! Either way it makes no difference as this word was not there before the book came into existence and the authors never told any one how to pronounce it ! I prefer to pronounce it as Oo-ran-shya because that was the way my mind accepted it when I first read that word.

I am happy that a small number of readers of my blogs do get to know about this book for the first time. A still fewer of them might be visiting my urantia-india website to know more about the book. A couple of them might be there who ventured in to reading the book. I am not sure, though a few of them have communicated that. I have no idea, how many of them could have found some interests initiated within their minds to explore and study the book seriously.

I remember the markedly hostile reactions of some of my dear ones who castigated the book as satanic without ever bothering to know its contents. They are otherwise practicing and pious Christians. How sad ! It hurts me not because they have rejected some irrefutable truths I have found most rewarding for study and meditation. It hurts me, because they chose not to use their God given capacities to separate truths from untruths thereby losing some great opportunities that could have perhaps made them different and worthy personalities. I know what they are losing but I cannot force any one to accept my findings ! I cannot discuss the thoughts of my mind with those who are decisively non receptive !

It could have been much of an opportunity of happiness to me, had I found any one near to me interested in the book as I am. Unfortunately for me, it is not to be like that. I know the reasons, but for the time being, there are no solutions to that.

True, the Urantia Book has given me such great opportunities to understand the truths behind many things that I observe as the way they are on this earth. I now know why human efforts for quick rectification of wrongs do not yield results. I do understand why earth is the way it is and does not seem to proceed the way I would have liked it to be. I do understand why bad things keep happening quite often while  good things are not so common. I realize why trials and tribulations happen to good people while evil minded ones seem to prosper.

The book has told me some important things I should keep in mind. It has told me the importance of keeping patience and I do find the benefits of practicing patience.

But there are more in the book than that. Precious knowledge ! Indeed very useful for those who can comprehend those ! They are not mere knowledge. They are divine words of wisdom from divine sources !

I have already become a missionary of the Urantia Book. And I feel greatly honored and happy about it. But I know it won't make me any special creature any way ! And I am not to aspire to become any such special one ! Again, I am not to force or influence any one. I am to introduce the existence of this book of revelatory knowledge to those in this world who might think it worth to have a look !

The rest depends on how the children of God on earth use their God gifted free-will to make their choices.

While I am writing this blog, I read the writings of another inspired reader of the Urantia Book far away who too have decided to be a self appointed missionary of truths whose short message to me I read with joy. The short blogs of this Urantian truth propagator could be read here : Irrefutable Truths . 

As it happened with all divinely revealed truths in the past, corruption , misinterpretations and vested interest manipulations have already found their way in to this book too. For the time being, such things are bound to take place as God has not curtailed the free will choices of men and some divine beings from deviating from his paths. 

God need not punish each and every wrong doer each and every time because the Universal laws of God keep working in the perfect manner for good people and the the evil doers alike to culminate to result ultimate justice. I understand now what it means !

Please share the bliss of wisdom if ever it lighted your mind from the revealed knowledge of this book of divine origins !

[Please also take some time to come back and read my previous  blogs and blogs on other topics as well. You can reach to those by clicking the links in this page. I would be happy if you take some time to express your views using the comments facility down below. Please  use the same comment facility to interact with me for any doubts or clarifications that you might have. Here is the page link that gives the   list of all my blogs  where you can open all my blog titles.]

Water Supply , Sanitation and Solid Waste Management : Why does India Fair Poorly ?

While I was an engineering student pursuing my chemical engineering, I was thinking that some day I would be doing my career in some chemical process industries which produced petroleum products, fertilizers, insecticides, bulk pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, etc. I had never imagined that I would spent a good deal of my career in water supply, sanitation, water treatment or waste water engineering. 
I began my professional career in a captive thermal power station of an integrated steel plant. My job was to manage the production of de-mineralized (DM) water for steam generation in the boilers. The steam is used for rotating the turbo-generator machines which produced electricity. Steam is also required for various other heating and process applications in the steel plant. After its thermal energy is used up, steam gets condensed to become condensate water which is recycled to the boilers again for generating super heated steam. The losses of steam and water in the boiler water system required addition of make up water in the form of DM water. Quality of water and steam is very critical for the smooth operation of high pressure boilers and high speed steam turbines. Hence, all aspects of water chemistry is given due regards and attention in a properly managed thermal power station. My first job helped me to understand the nature of water and water treatment in much detail, including the chemical quality management aspects. In reality my function was of dual nature, because I was required to look after both the production processes and the quality control aspects of the chemical testing laboratory.

My second innings in my professional career was as a water supply and sanitation design engineer, a job conventionally done by civil engineers. I considered this job a bit inferior to my status initially. But soon I realized that this field is essentially sanitation engineering which is a very important aspect of city and town management and also one of the most neglected engineering area in modern India. My senior was an en experienced civil engineer who spent almost whole of his life time in this field. It was not much difficult for me to master the conventions of practical designs of this field and there was opportunities for me to improve upon the conventions because of my chemical engineering background.

Later I had opportunities to function as lead design engineer and consulting engineer for many projects involving water supply, cooling water systems,  water treatment, water softening , gas cleaning, effluent treatment, bio chemical treatment, coal chemical processing, etc which gave me much opportunities to expand my experience and knowledge in interdisciplinary engineering. Most importantly, insights into the way of functioning of the Indian system with its complex ,contradictory and vague rules , statutes and influences have also been acquired concurrently.

All these helped me to understand and analyse the root causes of the systemic lethargy in India to a great extent, though no one ever required me to do such a thing !

I have seen some municipal corporations in India taking over three decades to implement even mundane water supply projects which could have been done in one or two years time. I also find many cities and towns with no water supply and sanitation services. Regrettably many cities and towns of India also do not have any plans for making such facilities in the near future. Even progressive cities like Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the most literate state of India, have failed in implementing and managing good waste handling and disposal facilities.

Any developed and progressive country can perhaps call itself developed when the majority of its citizens are able to get good drinking water in sufficient quantities and also when they enjoy decent sanitation and waste disposal services.

Unfortunately, India stands at a pathetic low level of development when water supply and sanitation norms are concerned. [I suggest those interested to read this wikipedia article : Drinking water supply and sanitation in India ] Waste disposal facilities are virtually non existent. 

As a professional engineer with decades of experience in this area, I feel ashamed of such a pathetic situation in this country.

It is not very difficult to design and implement good water supply systems and sanitation systems linked to effective municipal effluent treatment plant systems for any cities or communities having a population of 5000 or more. So also is the case with solid waste management.  However, very few cities and communities in India have such systems.

What are the reasons for this kind of situation in India?

Why is it that the Indian leaders and administrators do not feel ashamed of such deplorable conditions of their country?

In my opinion, such a situation arise out of many things, all linked to each other in one way or the other.

The following are some of the main reasons as I see it:

1. Excepting a few large metropolitan cities, the city and municipal corporations have degraded to become play grounds of local politicians. As a result, the bureaucratic organizations that are required to assist the democratic city governments have become lethargic or non committal or ineffective to do any proper planning or city management.Often, the city administrations are headed by pliable or incompetent bureaucrats who are posted by the state administration as per political compulsions and priorities. Besides, the personnel and staff that get in to these administrative organizations of the municipalities and corporations are selected without any due consideration of their specialist experience or qualifications that they soon become vested interest groups. Specialist wings of the city administration such as the town planning, public health engineering, water supply and sewerage, public works, etc become side tracked to such an extent that their specialists and engineers no more are required to show any professional competence. It becomes all the more convenient for the incompetent political heads and bureaucratic chiefs to have such incompetent technical people as their subordinates that the former never feel the necessity to improve the competency of the latter. Soon, for any infrastructural development involving water supply, water treatment, sewage treatment, solid waste management etc the political heads and bureaucratic chiefs become the decision makers including those matters that are purely technical in nature. Such decisions eventually create nonviable or inferior schemes and projects which would either never get fully implemented or commissioned for the benefit of the people. Such technical incompetence soon creeps in to the operation and maintenance areas as well.

2. Lack of coordination among various governmental agencies and departments.

3. Lack of respect of contractual obligations. Indians are infamous for this kind of an attitude. Once contracts are placed, the Indian authorities at all levels seem to create undue problems for the contractors mostly for personal benefits. Delays of payments and works on account of such objections created by the officers and staff of the city governments often create a situation that good EPC contract firms with expertise and experience in the relevant fields avoid taking up such contracts.

4. Indian top authorities are keen to keep all major decisions to themselves even when they are not competent to take such decisions. Delegation of powers exist only in theory and not in practice. The root cause of this situation is the eagerness to get importance for unfair gains.

5. Incompetence of vigilance personnel and authorities to judge technical issues. Often such a situation makes the technical personnel from taking firm and sound decisions for the overall good of public projects. Again, this situation arises out of the lack of vision of the law makers who create such rules and regulations without due consideration of expert opinions. In my opinion, it is not a good practice to allow non technical authorities to find fault with technical decisions and file vigilance cases based on such findings. Even when there is a prima facie technical error, it has to be based on the recommendations of an expert technical committee.

6. In India, disciplines of engineers do not carry much value once an engineer gets posted. It makes the engineers who are trained in some discipline not getting the appropriate jobs and making the particular engineering discipline becoming a non preferable one for fresh students eventually creating a shortage of trained man power in certain areas. A typical example is the shortage of sanitation engineers or environmental engineers in the Indian city administrations.

7. Indian engineering institutions and technical universities plan their engineering curricula quite arbitrarily without due research on the requirements of the potential employers and their needs. The courses are planned based on the aspirations of the youngsters who are pretty unaware of the usefulness of the courses that they are going to study.

8. Experienced engineers have practically no say in the selection and deployment of fresh engineers within their organizations in India. This function is almost entirely decided by non technical people who have no idea about the work of engineers. This creates adverse imbalances in engineering expertise within even engineering organisations. Technical groups of city administrations are no exception.

9. Technical groups in India which are required to do collective engineering tasks are made up of technical personnel having incompatible capabilities and competence. The continued practice of reservations, favoritism, etc play an important role in this. The result is failure of the group to perform effectively even when there are exceptionally good individuals in the group.

10. Lack of consistent opportunities for EPC firms to maintain their expertise on a long term basis. There is no guarantee of work in areas such as water and waste water engineering, solid waste management, etc from the local authorities. The allocation of budgets and funds are erratic. This causes much uncertainties for EPC firms to maintain their expert engineers and technicians on a long term basis. Much bunching of work also happens making all work to suffer of time schedules and quality . EPC entrepreneurs try to maintain their technical organizations without enough numbers of permanent experts and managing the show somehow by outsourcing or entering into temporary understandings to form consortia or similar other gimmicks making a mess of things that eventually everything proceeds without any proper direction or planning.

11. India now has a number of so-called environmentalists who are text book experts and have no practical experience or expertise. They copy impractical norms and quality parameters and make big noises of not achieving certain values of quality parameters with regard to environmental quality norms on water, treated effluents, land fills, air , etc. These so called experts often make things complicated and often provide much fodder for the non technical media and the public. In the developed countries, often decisions on such things are taken on the basis of best achievable technology (BAT) and best practical technology (BPT) . In India, text book experts are least concerned about practical aspects and costs involved. This compels many organizations to spend huge sums of money for practically achieving no results, especially in the areas of water treatment, effluent treatment and air pollution control.

12. Indian organizations do not allow planned development of expertise in engineering and technology. Whatever experience the engineers gain happen randomly and in much unplanned manner. Hence it is not very easy to identify and evaluate the real experience and expertise of engineers. Again this evaluation is left to the whims and fancies of non technical personnel, making many experienced engineers wasting their times without actually contributing to works where they could do it well or important engineering assignments getting in to the hands of inexperienced engineers and non technical leaders bull dozing them to commit gross errors.

13. There is no political will in India to make these services privatized allowing  reasonable charges to be levied from even the affluent class of urban citizens. There is no reason to fear that the affluent urban citizens are so selfish and ignorant that they resist such facilities that would make their lives better. However, the present political atmosphere is such that every good move by one political party is opposed by the other parties who are not in power. This kind of attitude can change only when the mind set of the politicians change and they think collectively for the citizens and their country rather than for themselves.

14. Indian cities develop and grow in the most unscientific manner due to the absence of effective town planning. Very few cities have free spaces earmarked for development of infrastructural facilities for water treatment, waste water treatment, waste processing, laying of pipe lines, etc. Even after 60 years of independence and even after the whole world has progressed, the Indian authorities feel that these are important matters which require firm actions. Ministries handling urban development, housing, water, environment, etc all seem to work in different directions. Few Indian citizens are aware of the existence of such ministries or their objectives. Incidentally these ministries keep changing every now and then with different names and objectives making any sustained actions never taking place with regard to water supply, sanitation and waste disposal in urban or rural India.

15. No one India seems to be in control of planning and execution of infrastructural projects with regard to water supply, sanitation and solid waste management for the Indian cities. It could perhaps be a good idea to notify the names of the key drivers of such projects with their responsibilities and authorities known to the public.

16. India has an acute shortage of design and engineering personnel who can formulate and plan an infrastructural project on water supply and waste water management for the cities and to do the detailed engineering works involved. As of now, India may be good in developing computer software, but it is not good in works involving conventional and core engineering due to its  expertise and capacity continuously on the decline in this area for the last many years. Serious thinking and corrective steps at the highest levels only can save India from becoming a slave to other nations in the future. One of the reasons for this shortage is the reluctance of brilliant engineers to take up this career in India because in this country being in this field of work they earn little respect now and of the prospects of being at the receiving end to be bull dozed by their not-so-brilliant colleagues who chanced to climb up the career by taking up other easier routes. No wonder why the brilliant IITians of India prefer to become IIMees by doing an unlearning of their difficult engineering- a thing perhaps never happen in a developed nation !

As some one has recently written in the Economic Times, this situation can be rectified if the politicians of India think about their country for a moment. It is possible if the bureaucrats think of their country for a moment instead of spending time on wasteful tours and meetings and lamenting on the inefficiency of their political masters. In my opinion the latter are better placed to correct the situation if they want. They have a greater responsibility as per the Indian constitution. If they collectively decide to make India a better place, no politician can ruin that. That is the safeguard they have as per the constitution. If politicians are willing to support them, things could move much better. Again, there is much need to enhance the confidence of the engineers working in core areas in this country and their confidence levels. Without them, neither the politicians, nor the bureaucrats can hardly achieve anything!

That was what Singapore had done. That is what China has been doing. That is what the developed nations have been doing.

India needs to learn how to honor and motivate its engineers to perform. If not, much of those brains are all going to migrate to places where they can use their brains effectively and work with some prestige.

It is a big opportunity to prove India's capabilities first in Water Supply, Sanitation and Solid Waste Management and making India filth-less and hygienic before trying to make the missiles, bombs and the rockets using borrowed technologies. This field has enormous potential for job generation. It also has enormous potential to generate income for the government.

I know the stories of many young men from India who never got any worth while employment in India, getting good paying employment in small county water treatment and sewage treatment plants in the USA. If the US could pay over $ 5000 per month to an Indian born supervisor of a water treatment plant of a county of 5000 odd population, why can't India do it ? USA is rich, because the majority there think big. The moment the Americans think like the Indians they too are going to be doomed !

Think India, think! Think and act the way those progressive peoples are doing! Remove your narrow mindedness and your greed and your unjustified fears! You have immense potentials to come out of the pathetic conditions. Even those of you who like to exploit the nation from behind the curtains- it is better to change. You too would benefit a lot than you do at present!

Improving the health of the citizens is good for every one. Even for those who have made vast fortunes in India and thinking of staying in alien countries for breathing well.

And what I said above may be applicable to all other fields as well!

[Please also take some time to come back and read my previous  blogs and blogs on other topics as well. You can reach to those by clicking the links in this page. I would be happy if you take some time to express your views using the comments facility down below. Please  use the same comment facility to interact with me for any doubts or clarifications that you might have. Here is the page link that gives the   list of all my blogs  where you can open all my blog titles.]

Monday, June 24, 2013

Would it be of any Benefit to Pray to God ? What Should Be Remembered When You Pray ?

Modern man is perplexed by the thought of talking things over with God in a purely personal way. Many have abandoned regular praying; they only pray when under unusual pressure—in emergencies. Man should not be afraid to talk to God.

The simple prayer of faith evidences a mighty evolution in human experience to that of a bona fide consciousness of the reality of the eternal God - the Universal Father (God) of all intelligent creation.

Prayer induces the human ego to look both ways for help: for material aid to the subconscious reservoir of mortal experience, for inspiration and guidance to the super conscious borders of the contact of the material with the spiritual.

Prayer ever has been and ever will be a twofold human experience: a psychological procedure inter associated with a spiritual technique. And these two functions of prayer can never be fully separated.

It is altogether fitting that man, when he prays, should strive to grasp the concept of the Universal Father (God).

No prayer can be ethical when the petitioner seeks for selfish advantage over his fellows.  In all your praying be fair; do not expect God to show partiality, to love you more than his other children, your friends, neighbors, even enemies. 

Remember, even if prayer does not change God, it very often effects great and lasting changes in the one who prays in faith and confident expectation. Prayer has been the ancestor of much peace of mind, cheerfulness, calmness, courage, self-mastery, and fair-mindedness in the men and women of the evolving races.

Prayer need not always be individual. Group or congregational praying is very effective in that it is highly socializing in its repercussions. When a group engages in community prayer for moral enhancement and spiritual uplift, such devotions are reactive upon the individuals composing the group; they are all made better because of participation. Even a whole city or an entire nation can be helped by such prayer devotions. Confession, repentance, and prayer have led individuals, cities, nations, and whole races to mighty efforts of reform and courageous deeds of valorous achievement.

Prayer, unless in liaison with the will and actions of the personal spiritual forces and material supervisors of a realm, can have no direct effect upon one's physical environment. While there is a very definite limit to the province of the petitions of prayer, such limits do not equally apply to the faith of those who pray.

Prayer is not a technique for curing real and organic diseases, but it has contributed enormously to the enjoyment of abundant health and to the cure of numerous mental, emotional, and nervous ailments. And even in actual bacterial disease, prayer has many times added to the efficacy of other remedial procedures. Prayer has turned many an irritable and complaining invalid into a paragon of patience and made him an inspiration to all other human sufferers.

No matter how difficult it may be to reconcile the scientific doubtings regarding the efficacy of prayer with the ever-present urge to seek help and guidance from divine sources, never forget that the sincere prayer of faith is a mighty force for the promotion of personal happiness, individual self-control, social harmony, moral progress, and spiritual attainment.

Do not be so slothful as to ask God to solve your difficulties, but never hesitate to ask him for wisdom and spiritual strength to guide and sustain you while you yourself resolutely and courageously attack the problems at hand.

The soul of man requires spiritual exercise as well as spiritual nourishment.

Religious ecstasy is permissible when resulting from sane antecedents, but such experiences are more often the outgrowth of purely emotional influences than a manifestation of deep spiritual character. Religious persons must not regard every vivid psychologic presentiment and every intense emotional experience as a divine revelation or a spiritual communication. Genuine spiritual ecstasy is usually associated with great outward calmness and almost perfect emotional control. But true prophetic vision is a super psychological presentiment. Such visitations are not pseudo hallucinations, neither are they trance like ecstasies.

The human mind may perform in response to so-called inspiration when it is sensitive either to the uprisings of the subconscious or to the stimulus of the super conscious. In either case it appears to the individual that such augmentations of the content of consciousness are more or less foreign. Unrestrained mystical enthusiasm and rampant religious ecstasy are not the credentials of inspiration, supposedly divine credentials.

The practical test of all  strange religious experiences of mysticism, ecstasy, and inspiration is to observe whether these phenomena cause an individual:

1. To enjoy better and more complete physical health. 

2. To function more efficiently and practically in his mental life. 

3. More fully and joyfully to socialize his religious experience. 
4. More completely to spiritualize his day-by-day living while faithfully discharging the commonplace duties of routine mortal existence. 

5. To enhance his love for, and appreciation of, truth, beauty, and goodness. 

6. To conserve currently recognized social, moral, ethical, and spiritual values. 

7. To increase his spiritual insight—God-consciousness.
To some individuals prayer is the calm expression of gratitude; to others, a group expression of praise, social devotions. sometimes it is the imitation of another's religion, while in true praying it is the sincere and trusting communication of the spiritual nature of the creature with the anywhere presence of the spirit of the Creator.

Prayer elevates man because it is a technique of progressing by the utilization of the ascending spiritual currents of the universe.

Genuine prayer adds to spiritual growth, modifies attitudes, and yields that satisfaction which comes from communion with divinity. It is a spontaneous outburst of God-consciousness.

God answers man's prayer by giving him an increased revelation  of truth, an enhanced appreciation of beauty, and an augmented concept of goodness. Prayer is a subjective gesture, but it contacts with mighty objective realities on the spiritual levels of human experience; it is a meaningful reach by the human for superhuman values. It is the most potent spiritual-growth stimulus.

Words are irrelevant to prayer; they are merely the intellectual channel in which the river of spiritual supplication may chance to flow. The word value of a prayer is purely auto-suggestive in private devotions and socio-suggestive in group devotions. God answers the soul's attitude, not the words.

Prayer is not a technique of escape from conflict but rather a stimulus to growth in the very face of conflict. Pray only for values, not things; for growth, not for gratification.

If you would engage in effective praying, you should bear in mind the laws of prevailing petitions:
1. You must qualify as a potent prayer by sincerely and courageously facing the problems of universe reality. You must possess cosmic stamina.
2. You must have honestly exhausted the human capacity for human adjustment. You must have been industrious.
3. You must surrender every wish of mind and every craving of soul to the transforming embrace of spiritual growth. You must have experienced an enhancement of meanings and an elevation of values.
4. You must make a wholehearted choice of the divine will. You must obliterate the dead center of indecision.
5. You not only recognize the God's will and choose to do it, but you have effected an unqualified consecration, and a dynamic dedication, to the actual doing of the God's will.
6. Your prayer will be directed exclusively for divine wisdom to solve the specific human problems encountered in the  attainment of divine perfection.
7. And you must have faith—living faith.

[Adapted from the Revelatory Paper on Evolution of Prayer  as included as paper-91 in the Urantia Book ]

[Please also take some time to come back and read my previous  blogs and blogs on other topics as well. You can reach to those by clicking the links in this page. I would be happy if you take some time to express your views using the comments facility down below. Please  use the same comment facility to interact with me for any doubts or clarifications that you might have. Here is the page link that gives the   list of all my blogs  where you can open all my blog titles.]

Friday, June 21, 2013

Uttarakhand Flood of 16th June 2013 : Would Good Engineering Practices Have Reduced the Losses ?

When the news of the heavy rains and the subsequent land slide calamities that rocked India, especially the north Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh a couple of days ago, with the horror stories still pouring in, some memories of my experiences in those areas more than three decades ago flashed in my mind. Thousands are now believed to be either dead or missing in this worst natural disaster in the recent times. And this tragedy is likely to cause lingering pains to thousands of families across India crying and searching for their near and dear ones. 

As a quick response of responsibility, Google has started a special service for locating and reporting the details of the missing persons -you may click this Person Finder link for more details: 2013 Uttrakhand Floods. Against this backdrop I find it most unfortunate to observe the much publicized Prime Minister's National Relief Fund Donate Online website  a non-functional one with invalid server certificate,  today ! 

Now coming back to my memories. The period was late in the Nineteen Seventies when I was a post graduate chemical engineering student at Roorkee University, the successor of the first engineering college that started functioning any where in the British Commonwealth regions under the British empire way back in 1853 as Thomason College of Civil Engineering  which later got rechristened as the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.

Being passed my degree in chemical engineering from the only college that offered that stream of study in the south Indian state of Kerala in those days, the Government Engineering College, Trichur, there was no reason for me to go to the plains of north west India for further studies. I could have done that elsewhere much conveniently. But my decision to try Roorkee was in a way purposeful. Two years at Roorkee would give me enough opportunity to explore some of the mountainous Himalayan terrains of North India.

Those were some of the memorable days of my life. There were a few adventure loving friends. Mr Ujjagger Singh Kooner pursuing his ME in Mechanical Engineering and Mr Donn Treese from USA pursuing his masters in Architectural Engineering were my hostel mates in Jawahar Bhawan who used to be my adventure and sight seeing companions on many occasions. The Himalayan Explorer's Club of the University also provided much help for me to understand the problems of life in the mountain terrains of Tehri Garhwal  and adjoining regions situated then in undivided Uttar Pradesh State and now in Uttarakhand State. A week's training in ice craft and mountaineering in Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi was a good experience which I still cherish.

These Himalayan ranges are the sources of streams that make up the great north Indian rivers such as the Ganga (River Ganges)  and its main tributory the Yamuna that make the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar fertile. Being a nation of nearly a billion people following Hinduism, it not a surprise that the Himalayan ranges have many revered Hindu shrines and worship places where a devote Hindu would like to visit as a pilgrim. The Ganga water is holy and the source of the Ganga (Gangotri)  and Yamuna (Yamunotri) are holy places making them most desired locations in the Uttarakhand regions of the Himalayas for the religious tourists. Besides the entire routes to these places in the mountains offer awesome treat to nature lovers and adventurists alike. Visit of people to these places has been a regular affair for decades. While few hundred people visited these places every year a couple of decades before, perhaps millions visit now. Better roads and affordability of good vehicles and mushrooming of hundreds of guest houses along the valleys and hill slopes have made such a transformation.

During the time of my visit to these places in the late Seventies, the roads connecting Uttarkashi , Harsil, Rudraprayag  and Kedarnath were broken at many places due to land slides. I remember trekking for kilometers and taking some help from the Indian paramilitary personnel from ITBP, BSF, etc to cover some distances in the motor-able patches of the roads on their vehicles. I had seen the difficult work of the BRO in repairing the difficult mountain roads that had caved in due to landslides at many places. Travelling in those roads and trails running by the slopes of the mountains make one feel highly vulnerable to various kinds of potential dangers like falling stones, fall, etc., etc. If one gets physically incapacitated by any means, an evacuation to a safer place would not be easy if the roads become cut or isolated due to landslides or caving ins. . Helicopters of the military organizations would be the only solution in such a situation. I had faced such a situation of helplessness when I caught a mild fever while I was on trek beyond Uttarkashi. My stamina all of a sudden got drained out that I was incapable of trekking any more ! Fortunately, some friendly paramilitary men helped me by giving shelter, medicine and transport when it was needed the most !

While I visited these places, the travelers and visitors in these places were much less as compared to the situation now. But I can visualize the horror if you get stranded in any of these places. I remember getting stranded in a mountain village in Himachal Pradesh north east of Shimla  during a pleasant season when the road connection got suddenly broken on another occasion during that time when me and my American friend Donn ventured in to a personal adventure trip. We had to walk nearly 50 km taking two days to get the public transport to Shimla ! Fortunately, the weather was nice and we had my uncle who worked there in the Public Works Department as our guide. Imagine the horror in a situation when the weather is hostile and you are left to fetch for yourself !

But the world has moved much ahead in the last three decades. The roads of Uttarakhand has become a bit wider perhaps to accommodate more vehicles. But, regrettably nothing more to prevent those roads from getting damaged extensively due to floods, earthquakes or landslides has been implemented. There could have been alternate routes at many places to give the people some option when some long stretches of road become isolated. The building constructions along the river side and the slopes could have been with better and safe engineering designs. There could have been more helicopter landing pads. The unstable mountain slopes could have been strengthened with appropriate landslide prevention methods.

When we talk about landslide prevention methods, it is now common knowledge that there are many methods the engineering fraternity around the globe practice and implement. For example see this wikipedia article on landslide mitigation .

Of these, the most important in my opinion, is the provision of good water drainage systems for both surface water as well as sub soil water. In the roads in India, this one aspect is the most neglected one with improvisation doing the major role than well- thought- about engineering designs. An unstable soil surface , such as the sloppy terrains of Uttarakhand, would slide out when rain water seeps in and accumulate below the surface. There are many ways to stabilize those slopes along the roads and below the roads and to strengthen those roads from total damage as was seen this time. The towns in the valleys and ravines also could have been saved to a greater extent, had some authorities thought of such eventualities with the help of engineering experts well in advance.

Perhaps for reasons well known to them, the authorities found it convenient to keep these roads in a perpetual state of damage and damage mitigation state rather than adopting sound engineering practices to build safe and stabilized roads and infrastructure. I am not sure !

Landslides due to floods, earthquakes and rains are not something new to Uttarakhand. But hopefully, this kind of a tragedy could have been mitigated of its severity with the adoption of sound engineering practices.

Let us hope the authorities would consider it something important to implement in the future !

My heartfelt sympathies with all those affected families and persons!

[Please also take some time to come back and read my previous  blogs and blogs on other topics as well. You can reach to those by clicking the links in this page. I would be happy if you take some time to express your views using the comments facility down below. Please  use the same comment facility to interact with me for any doubts or clarifications that you might have. Here is the page link that gives the   list of all my blogs  where you can open all my blog titles.]

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why did the Plastic Carry Bags Get Banned in the Indian Cities?

Polyethylene (PE) or simply polythene, Polypropylene (PP) , Polystyrene (PS) and Polyurethane (PU) are perhaps the most commonly used plastics that have revolutionized the way people used packaged products of various kinds. Without a proper plastic packaging, it is impossible to think of products like food items, medicines, mineral water, aerated drinks and many other consumable items are getting sold to the consumers. Plastic bags, both use and throw types and re-usable ones have made shopping a pleasurable and easy task for people both in the cities and the rural areas. 

The success of the polymer industry that makes these plastics have made tremendous profits for the petrochemical giants of the world. These industrial giants make the monomers and the bulk polymers which are the raw materials to the numerous small and big  plastic making industries around the world. 

But all these success turned out to become a curse in the recent years that even the mention of the word 'plastic' is making the otherwise gentle environmentalists furious and ferocious !

In the recent past, some city governments in developed nations like the US have considered it wise to ban plastic carry bags in their cities. Indian environmentalists and politicians, all keen to project themselves as green ambassadors and green saviors of the nation are quick to follow with wide spread bans of plastics making the job of the otherwise lethargic local police men more lucrative and active ! It is yet another point to investigate to find out their real agendas in banning plastic carry bags, the item which made life simple for many citizens all throughout these years. 

The thin plastic bags that the local trader happily handed out to the fish, meat and vegetable buyer in the local market for their customer to take home their daily needs without any hassles have all of a sudden have become a dreaded material comparable to perhaps the nuts and bolts of an AK-47 that made a famous Indian actor confined to the dreaded jails of India. Possessing and carrying plastic carry bags of negligible thickness has become a crime in India ! Of course, the Indians are just imitating their big brothers else where!  Unless the big brothers come out with some solutions, the Indians cannot possibly have some solutions !

How could they ? These bloody plastic bags are clogging the drains, the sewers of the apartments, the stomachs of the holy cows and what not ! It is so a big mistake that it was allowed to proliferate to this extent, some of the plastic haters argue ! But my brain is not digesting the logic of banning the thinner plastic carry bags while the thicker ones and plastics are allowed to be used. But this information is hidden in the government orders and not given much publicity that the common man is getting frightened by the sight of any plastics. His fears are indeed genuine because he is not sure how the local policeman would act or react while seeing a piece of plastic in some one's possession !

But allowing the the thicker plastics perhaps would be a boon to the petrochemical giants. Now their tonnage is bound to increase ! It is not yet clear whether the authorities want the citizens to wash their thicker poly bags again and again and use it till they are worn out ! They are also not telling what to do with the thicker worn out pieces of those plastics !

While all these are happening, I am surprised at the silence of the world leaders in plastic production, the petrochemical giants! It clearly shows that they are not affected by these bans ! Even in India, the projected consumption of plastics is continuously on the rise ! ( Read the wikipedia article here !)

The average life span of a plastic item is about 8 years. That means the billions of tonnes of plastics that are manufactured by using petroleum as the starting raw material become a waste material in about 8 years time.

This poses two kinds of problems.

Firstly,  the scarce hydrocarbon petroleum reserves are consumed for the production of plastic materials. Secondly, the used plastics become non-biodegradable polymer wastes.

But they also serve some very useful functions during its life span. Modern packaging industry depends totally on plastic products. A good number of industrial equipment resisting corrosion are also made of plastic materials. Modern automobiles, airplanes, boats and ships depend heavily on plastic materials as their components. A good number of plastics are gets recycled to form inferior products ultimately becoming some sort of non usable waste material. 

But regrettably every usable material is bound to make some waste some point of time. Some wastes are biodegradable in a shorter period of time. But, till that time they are not fully degraded back to join the natural elements they are bound to cause some nuisance. Food is good, but spoilt food is not. Water is good, but spoilt water is not. Plastic is good, but spoilt plastic is not.

All waste materials can be used in some way or the other, provided we know how to do it properly. Thus waste food, waste water, waste soil, waste oil, waste biomass and waste plastics can all be processed for some usefulness. That is the universal law of nature. It there is a will, there is a way. That is as simple as that.

Are you scared of life because your body excretes all that waste materials every day ? Haven't you devised methods and means to tackle that problem ? Will you stop eating food and drinking water because that produce noxious wastes to come out of your body ? You will not. Then, why to ban these carry bags made of plastics ? Are we so underdeveloped that we can not develop a system of collecting and processing these waste plastics ? No, never.

Then what is the problem ?

No problem technically. There are many ways of tackling the problem. There are even ways by which the plastic waste processing would become profitable business options. Of course, no business is possible without administrative blessings by those who rule !

For that matter, 99 % of the cities of India have no solid waste management systems, what to talk about the plastic wastes. Technically and technologically these are not big issues. But, administratively and politically they are !

Because administration and politics are not as simple as engineering and technology. They are not at all straight forward. Two plus two may not be four in these superior human disciplines!

It is very difficult to understand. Have you now understood why there are not many institutions that teach politics and political administration ?

Did you get why the plastic carry bags got banned in the Indian cities ?