Fuel Module of Essential Words for Education

Education seeds past, present and future of a society. With glocalizing and globalizing societies, it regresses towards universalism. The FUEL Project is a product as well as bearer of the same process.  The Education Module under the FUEL project has a number of traditional and emerging areas of education. These areas are emerging all over the world at different pace and variation. They very often adopt and adapt the local practices and traditions. Yet, with their inherent similarities it is possible to relate them to each other. Besides, there are some similarities due to common colonial heritage across the developing and developed nations. These situations have created the ground for the common terminologies enlisted in the module.

To start with the module contains the terms that are bare essentials. For example school, teacher, pupil etc. The school system pervades every literate and semi-literate societies and they have evolved their own terms for them.  The other group of words is contextual terms that are used in different stages of teaching learning practices.  For example attention, attitude, audio-visual aids, brain storming etc. The basic terms relating to educational research have also been listed for example, qualitative research, sampling, quantitative research etc.

Education system is not a homogeneous field. Various terms are used to indicate different level and types of education and institutions. For example, formal education, non-formal education, inclusive education, professional education, vocational education, boarding school etc. Different modes of education like distance education, correspondence course etc has also been listed. The functioning of an education system is very often questioned about its quality, accessibility and equity, so these terms also got place in the list.

The core of the teaching-learning process is the activities of the learner and the teachers. From the process of planning for classroom activity to the process of the evaluation, there are a number of activities that are common across the world. The terms like evaluation, Interaction analysis, lesson plan etc. along with the micro-teaching, simulation etc that is used for practicing teaching skill have found place in the module.

The education system is going through a number of changes due to technical development and growing needs of society for increasing the number of skilled human resources. A broad array of teaching learning techniques have evolved over time to address these needs and have generated new terminologies. This module has tried to accommodate them as far as possible. It has taken account of the new teaching method based on child centric education and other methods based on the development in cognitive sciences.

The area that has a wide representation in the module is technology-education interface. The terms relating to on-line learning, blended learning, Moodle, CAI are represented here.

We are posing the module to the community to review it and to provide feedback for improvement. View it here:


Earthquakes: Counter Strategy and Safety Measures

Take on Your Worst Fears

Earthquakes cannot be predicted by any scientific method or model. The Geologists can predict that in a particular area the tension between the plates are high and a major earthquake may strike. But they cannot give any time frame. It can be next moment or decades later. It can happen at a time when everyone is awake or at the darkness of midnight, or when most of the family members are spread over a wide area (children at schools, men and women at offices, elderly people at home). Hence, it is a situation very difficult to handle. Our response to it is a general apathy and ignorance (“If it is our fate, it will happen!” kind of attitude). But there is more you can do if you think strategically and plan. You can keep yourself ready to face it. You only need to answer a few questions as given below. The questions are parted into three sections: Before an Earthquake, During an Earthquake and After an Earthquake.

Before an Earthquake

Where do you live?

This is the most important question to know. In which seismic zone you are living defines the intensity of tremor you may face. The closer you are to the Himalayas, the closer you are to the high-intensity prone zone though there are other areas too. Here is a good article to understand the meaning of intensity depicted in Roman digit (Magnitude).


You can read more details about the seismic zone here. If you have a choice you should decide for a safer zone to reside. But most of the time we cannot choose.

Anyway whatever place you live, you should know what kind of natural or man-made calamity may hit you. The best place to know about it is the website of National Disaster Management Authority. (On the home page you can locate your nearest State Disaster Management Authority by clicking on the black dots) At times, one disaster may induce another. For example if you are living near a dam, a flood is an additional risk. Even in a singular disaster zone, you may have to face a chilling winter in a homeless condition. Or, a fire may break out immediately after the earthquake. It is better to devise a strategy to face all the calamity at a time.

What are the potential hazards in your neighbourhood?

The second important step is to identify your nearest hazards. If you are living near a field or open space, it is tempting to rush to that place, but you should decide your course of action beforehand. Rushing to an open place even at a short distance from your house during an earthquake may have many potential dangers like electric poles on street, weaker walls of staircases (there is a tendency among contractors to least prioritize the quality of construction of staircases and balconies, hence they are the worst threats). STAYING INSIDE YOUR HOUSE IS THE BEST ADVICE.

You should take a snap of Google (satellite) Map of your area. (To do this on a Windows machine you have to set the map at the level where you can identify all the major objects and it should also covers at least a one or two km radius of area, centring your house. Strike the PrintScr button at the upper right side of the keyboard. Paste it on a Word page.) On this map identify an area which is free of the high buildings and big trees. Determine a safe and short root (that is a root that has wider roads and do not have many high buildings). It is always safe to go to that place after the first tremor stops. You should also discuss a place for meeting in case the family members are away and a severe earthquake demolishes all the buildings. You should also mark the potential hazards of the root.

You should make a map of your house/apartment also and mark the potential hazards of the building. It may be some weak wall/roof. Extra priority should be given to the kitchen. It is a best practice to switch off the gas from the cylinder knob. You should also inculcate a habit of devoting exclusive time to the kitchen. Stay in the kitchen, at least till the gas burner is on. Remember the earthquake generally gives surprises and your good habits are your best bet. But, you should not live in a state of continuous scare and stress in anticipation of an impending earthquake.

How to get your house ready to face an earthquake?

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) suggests the following:

  • Repair deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures to the ceiling.
  • Follow BIS codes relevant to your area for building standards
  • Fasten shelves securely to walls.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
  • Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, seating, and anywhere that people sit.
  • Brace overhead light and fan fixtures.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
  • Secure water heaters, LPG cylinders etc., by strapping them to the walls or bolting to the floor.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
  • Identify safe places indoors and outdoors.
    • Under strong dining table, bed
    • Against an inside wall
    • Away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors, pictures, or where heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall over
    • In the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines, flyovers and bridges
  • Know emergency telephone numbers (such as those of doctors, hospitals, the police, etc)
  • Educate yourself and family members

What else we need to do to mitigate the damage induced by a “major” or “great” level earthquake?

A study DAMAGE SCENARIO UNDER HYPOTHETICAL RECURRENCE OF 1934 EARTHQUAKE INTENSITIES IN VARIOUS DISTRICTS IN BIHAR has been conducted to evaluate the impact of an earthquake by Bihar State Disaster Management Authority. It concludes that

The damage scenario under hypothetical occurrences of postulated earthquake intensities in all districts and blocks in Bihar has been analyzed and computations are shown in Report-1. In view of the huge number of probable Loss of Human Lives during postulated earthquake and a large number of Re-construction and Repair of Houses required at the probable post earthquake situation, the following measures are suggested that should be taken up urgently :-

  • All new construction of housing should be earthquake resistant as per BIS codes of India.
  • The housing constructed without sufficient earthquake resisting elements, should be surveyed and retrofitted if required.
  • A special legislation along with special team of private-public organization may be entrusted to accomplish the above tasks.

How to make an earthquake-proof house?

First of all watch these videos from NDMA.

For details read the following:

If you are living in a non-engineered house (houses without concrete pillars) you should make some important changes in the house.

An UNICEF publication sheds more light on a different type of non-engineered houses.

Obviously the construction of houses should not be done under the whims of the semi-literate masons and contractors. They should be properly designed by a qualified engineer. Apartments, in general, are planned by the engineers, but may have several weak points and loose walls due to financial cuts, later renovations, use of falls walls, ignored leakage in roofs etc.

A detailed and technical advice regarding the CONDITION ASSESSMENT OF BUILDINGS FOR REPAIR AND SEISMIC UPGRADING is given by the National Institute of Disaster Management (for Professional only). It also gives an idea about the probable damages in houses.
Some interesting researches have revealed that the lighter the building is the less prone it is to the earthquakes.

How to make an Emergency Kit?

An Emergency Kit is a collection of essential items for the situations like when you have to evacuate the area immediately or you are trapped inside a demolished structure and relief & rescue operation is delayed. You should keep this Kit with you if you are going out of your house after the first round of tremor. Because it is never advisable to go into a partly damaged building to pick up these things.

The Emergency Kit should contain item of food (Read about type of food and way to store here) , water (Read the needed Amount and way to store here) medicine and other items as listed below:

  • Kit-bag preferably waterproof
  • Battery operated torch with extra batteries
  • Battery operated radio
  • Whistle
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Emergency food (dry items) and water (packed and sealed)
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Candles and matches in a waterproof container
  • Knife
  • Chlorine tablets or powdered water purifiers
  • Can opener.
  • Essential medicines for ailed persons, elderly persons and children
  • Cash, Debit/Credit cards, Cheque/pass-book (in case of electricity failure the Cards will not work)
  • Thick ropes and cords
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Important document like Aadhar Card, Voter ID, Passport, Scanned copy of property and other important papers (either hard copy or pen drive)
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, colour safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Paper and pencil/pen
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
  • Bank Locker Key
  • Phone no. of important district level authorities and nearby police station
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • A mobile with a functional simcard, fully charged and switched off, A power bank may also be considered

It is advisable to keep as many kits as the family members, Items can be adjusted according to the weight bearing capacity of the individuals.

Develop an emergency communication plan
  • In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the ‘family contact’ after the disaster; it is often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Mock Rehearsal for Family members and/or Apartment residents can be organised.

How to help your community get ready?

  • Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency information on earthquakes. Localize the information by printing the phone numbers of local emergency services offices and hospitals.
  • Conduct week-long series on locating hazards in the home.
  • Work with local emergency services and officials to prepare special reports for people with mobility impairment on what to do during an earthquake.
  • Provide tips on conducting earthquake drills in the home.
  • Interview representatives of the gas, electric, and water companies about shutting off utilities.
  • Work together in your community to apply your knowledge to building codes, retrofitting programmes, hazard hunts, and neighbourhood and family emergency plans.

During an Earthquake

Is running away from your house is the best option?

Running out of house during an earthquake is never a right option. You can move to a nearby open place after the earthquake stops and you wait for sometime and be sure that it has stopped. You should have a safe shelter inside your house, like strong table without any glass work, a bed with a strong middle part. Though, we are more given to the fancy furniture, you may design a table specially for this purpose or change your dining table with an old fashioned wooden table. When designing a table especially for this purpose you should keep in mind that it should be placed in a central location like living room/hall. If possible, make it in L-shape so that it do not fall under an impact of falling debris.

You should also consider that in a worst condition you may have to spend days under the table (if you are covered around with the debris). You should always keep a Emergency kit nearby. It is better to always keep it under the table.

What to Do During an Earthquake?

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps that reach a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there is no a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Protect yourself by staying under the lintel of an inner door, in the corner of a room, under a table or even under a bed.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, (such as lighting fixtures or furniture).
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in near to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load bearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

If outdoors

  • Do not move from where you are. However, move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • If you are in open space, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings; at exits; and along the exterior walls. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Ration everything you have (food, Water etc)
  • Save your energy, move less
  • Do not light a match (It will consume oxygen and there may be leaking gas cylinder nearby)
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

After an Earthquake

What to Do After an Earthquake?

  • Keep calm, switch on the radio/TV and obey any instructions you hear on it.
  • Keep away from beaches and low banks of rivers. Huge waves may sweep in.
  • Be prepared to expect aftershocks.
  • Turn off the water, gas and electricity.
  • Do not smoke and do not light matches or use a cigarette lighter. Do not turn on switches. There may be gas leaks or short-circuits. Use a torch.
  • If there is a fire, try to put it out. If you cannot, call the fire brigade.
  • If people are seriously injured, do not move them unless they are in danger.
  • Immediately clean up any inflammable products that may have spilled (alcohol, paint, etc).
  • If you know that people have been buried, tell the rescue teams. Do not rush and do not worsen the situation of injured persons or your own situation.
  • Avoid places where there are loose electric wires and do not touch any metal object in contact with them.
  • Do not drink water from open containers without having examined it and filtered it through a sieve, a filter or an ordinary clean cloth.
  • If your home is badly damaged, you will have to leave it. Collect water containers, food, and ordinary and special medicines (for persons with heart complaints, diabetes, etc.)
  • Do not re-enter badly damaged buildings and do not go near damaged structures.

 Thus you may prepare yourself and your family to face the earthquake and mitigate its damage to a good extent.

Please give your feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Download and share (A brief of this article in Hindi)

Earthquake: Some Facts to Face the Rumours

Earthquakes are sudden. They surprise us and may bring unalterable changes in our life. They are more traumatic when they come with rumours of sorts. They are more destructive when we ignore them while constructing houses and designing interiors. Let’s check out some of our misconceptions and look overs. [Here we are talking only about the earthquakes due to plate tectonics, there are many other reasons of Earthquake.]

Earthquakes are Rare?

They are not. Actually, we are not standing on a solid and fixed ground. We are standing on the moving plates.  To visualize the situation let us imagine some hundred of ships in a particular sea, each started on their course but lost their steering wheels. We on our earth are the similar passengers though our ships (the plates) are on a much slower speed of a few millimetres per annum.  (Plate Tectonics is a theoretical model to explain these movements.  For more details read the wiki article)


But why are they moving?

It is a difficult question to answer. Here is an answer if you understand geological terminology.

Tectonic plates are able to move because the Earth’s lithosphere has greater strength than the underlying asthenosphere. Lateral density variations in the mantle result in convection. Plate movement is thought to be driven by a combination of the motion of the seafloor away from the spreading ridge (due to variations in topography and density of the crust, which result in differences in gravitational forces) and drag, with downward suction, at the subduction zones. Another explanation lies in the different forces generated by the rotation of the globe and the tidal forces of the Sun and Moon. The relative importance of each of these factors and their relationship to each other is unclear, and still the subject of much debate.

Let me try to explain it in simpler language. Suppose you are asked to layer the systems of your car. The most vital layer is obviously the combustion chamber. It is also the most subtle materially. Over it is the metal structure that secure the whole system and keep it intact. Over this is the comforting layer (driving and passenger zone) which is sealed off the heat and vibration of the lower parts. Similar is the structure of the earth. Human and other living things are living on the crust of the earth which consist of sedimentary materials that support life. It is the comfort zone that is protected by the Mantle layer of the earth. The Mantle seals off the extremely hot two layers of the earth: Inner Core and Outer Core. But from Mantle the similarity from car disappear at one point: there is no clearly defined boundary like metal structure that control the heat of burning fuel. The mantle is divided into three layers (due to the high temperature of the core and lower temperature of crust along with other factors). The crust (our passenger seat) is attached to the upper layer of the Mantle and it is relatively solid and has “greater strength”. Below the upper layer, there is a transition zone and the lowest part is attached to the outer core with a very high temperature.

Hypothetically, the heating up of lower Mantle from below and cooling down of upper Mantle (due to a cooler crust) create convection movement. (It is similar to the boiling water where the cooler molecules go downward and hotter molecules go upward. It should be noted that in the boiling of water an external source of energy is providing extra energy to heat up. But in the case of our earth the body itself is the source of energy, hence, it is cooling down at the rate of about 100 degrees Celsius per billion years according to an estimate.) It is this convection movement that makes the Mantle an unstable base, hence, the part of the Crust attached to it also moves. There are other explanations as mentioned above (in quoted text) like difference in rotation (Earth do not rotate on a constant rate!) and tides created by sun and moon.

Global plate motion 2008-04-17 by NASA


What does it mean for us?

It essentially means that no place on earth is totally free from the chances of the earthquakes.  But areas closer to the fault lines have a higher risk. The impact of an earthquake depends on a number of factors we will discuss shortly.

What are the fault lines?

Fault lines are lines drawn to mark the boundary of the plates. They are irregular in shape, hence it is unpredictable that how any two or more of them will interact. Here is a model (in the video below) that depicts how the entangled parts of two plates may interact. It also explains why the aftershocks come.

Do the earthquakes come too often?

Yes, They visit us almost daily if you talk on the world scale. You can see it on this website. Even the high-intensity earthquakes are not uncommon as you can see in the image below.


Earthquake over the magnitude of 8 since 1900 (Courtesy “USGS magnitude 8 earthquakes since 1900” by Cmglee – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)[2]

Why damages are different at different places in the same temblor (earthquake)? Why was so much destruction in Kathmandu even though it was not a “great” earthquake?

It depends on a number of factors:

  • Distance from the epicentre
  • Population density at the place
  • Structure and density of buildings at the site
  • Time of strike (Working hour, Midnight)
  • Sediment and rocks of the place (see the image below)
quake vibration
Difference in velocity of waves inside earth (Courtesy: Incorporated  Research Institutions for Seismology )

As you can see the velocity decreases while passing through the sediment (soil, sand etc). Sedimentary deposits can have a large effect on ground motion above them. Especially if it is a basin like Kathmandu. To understand it you can recall the effect of throwing a pebble in a small pond. You can recall a circular wave emerging out from the point of impact of a pebble on the water surface. It comes back in the form of a faint circular wave after hitting the land. If you look intensely at the water surface, you could see that it takes some time to settle down. If you trough a full brick (I believe you must had) it will take a longer time to settle down.  The same is true for a tremor of an earthquake. And it increases the duration of shaking. Let me quote from the Incorporated  Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS):

Earthquake waves travel at high velocity through the stiff, crystalline rock of the crust but slow dramatically when entering the basin. This increases the amplitude of the earthquake waves within the basin fill.  In addition, the sharp density contrast of the soft basin rocks with surrounding material can cause waves to reflect, trapping energy in the basin for a period of time. This extends the duration of shaking.

Kathmandu basin has a bowl like structure that kept the reflecting waves in the basin for a long time. See the image below.

Kathmandu Valley is made of the debris of Paleo-Kathmandu Lake

In the Gangetic plane, the sedimentary area is stretched over a bigger area and the shock waves get disperses. Hence, the destruction is lesser. But it cannot be taken for granted And Bihar temblor of 1934 is the example.

If you are at ease with geological terms then you can read this presentation prepared by the Incorporated  Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and University of Portland about Nepal earthquake on 25th April, 2015. Click here.

What is the highest magnitude of an earthquake?

Previously the Richter Scale was used to represent the magnitude of an earthquake. The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale, which defines magnitude as the logarithm of the ratio of the amplitude of the seismic waves to an arbitrary, minor amplitude.

But the Richter Scale is substituted by Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS) which is now the scale used to estimate magnitudes for all modern large earthquakes by the United States Geological Survey. However, earthquake magnitudes are still sometimes incorrectly reported in popular media as “an earthquake of XX on the Richter scale”, when the correct terminology using the MMS is “a magnitude XX earthquake”.

In Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS), the magnitude is based on the seismic moment of the earthquake, which is equal to the rigidity of the Earth multiplied by the average amount of slip on the fault and the size of the area that slipped. It uses the same base-10 logarithmic scale.

Why is there a prediction of a major or great earthquake in the Himalayan region?

The Indian subcontinent is situated on a big plate that encompass the whole Indian subcontinent, most of Indian Ocean and Australia. Some million years ago, India started drifting from Australia. Now it is moving headlong in the Eurasian plate. The great impact has caused the emergence of the Himalayas. The process is still continuing.



In fact, the Indian plate is now rupturing from the Indian-Australian Plate.

Plate brake up in Indian Australian Plate

Since the Indian plate is still getting into the Eurasian plate there is a good possibility of major or great earthquakes.

When is that going to happen?

We can not predict the Earthquake. Though the animals and birds demonstrate to have some kind of genetically sensitivity towards earthquakes and they can sense it several hours/sometimes days ahead of the actual event. We are yet to determine what kind of cue they get and predict it as life threatening (so much so that in China the snake came out of their holes to die in freezing snow in their mid hibernation period). Scientifically we do not have any model to rely on for predicting a temblor.

For Chinese experience on animal prediction of earthquake click here

There is one report in a scientific journal of an observed behaviour of toads before an earthquake. This was also reported by BBC.

United States Geological Survey also had a commentary page here on the topic.

Interestingly the fault line is can be seen at the surface also. The San Andreas Fault is a continental transform fault that extends roughly 810 miles through California. It forms the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. A project to study this fault line is going on that can give a push to research in the field. A video below is a detailed report on it. You can also read about it at Wikipedia.

Image source

[1] http://sideshow.jpl.nasa.gov/mbh/all/images/global.jpg.

[2] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USGS_magnitude_8_earthquakes_since_1900.svg#/media/File:USGS_magnitude_8_earthquakes_since_1900.svg

The Moon is Reversed!!

There was a big rumour on 26th April, 2015 spread across the states in India among the people perturbed by the temblors and its aftershocks originating from Nepal. Many people who were scared to stay in their houses went to the parks for a night camping and their worried eyes saw an unusual Moon in the sky or was it unusual?

Let us see. Moon rises in the east and sets in the west. The Moon-Rabbit at the time of rising has its head facing up and at the time of setting its face is down. The time of Moonrise differs according to the day or Tithi of the lunar month. On 26 of April, 2015 it was 8th day from the Dark Moon (Amavasya). The time of Moonrise on the Patna Sky was 11:48 Morning (The time varies across the Longitude line by 4 minutes per degree increasing as we move west).

Moon at 1:26 PM on 26th April, 2015

By the evening when most people noticed the Moon, it has already crossed most of the sky. Hence, they perceived it as reverse (Ulta). Actually there was nothing unusual in it. It set in 1:30 Morning on 27th of April.

Moon at 6:27 PM

Again after 2 hours

Moon at 8:27 PM

See a simulated video that is created in a in a desktop planetarium. Especially notice the change of time on the right side as the Moon reverse after crossing the mid sky.

Let’s ‘Bark’ for Our Democracy

Prabhas Ranjan

Democracy is generally perceived as a form of government. We often talk about a failed democracy, democracy as an out coating of the some oligarchy or other non-democratic forms of government. But the democratic system of governance is a manifestation of a democratic process that starts on the day people commit themselves to a democratic ethos of citizenship. In an indirect democratic system, there is a tendency among the people to limit their role to that of a voter to select the members of a parliamentary session. Through some questions, we shall try to bust some of the myths that have rooted in our mindset and influence our participation in the democratic process.

What is Democracy?

Democracy is an emerging form of relationship among the people who have (in general) agreed to

  • Prioritize group leadership over individual Karishma (The Prime Minister/President and Her Cabinet)
  • Constantly inform the leaders about the intents of the citizens and keep them alert of their interest when taking a decision
  • Formulate and monitor for need of changes in legislative, administrative and judicial structure to attain the above aims and guard them head any abuse by individual power mongering
What is undemocratic?
There may not be a straight answer to this question. This question arises only in a democratic set-up. It is hard to predefine some practices as undemocratic since we have not lived all the variations of democracy. In general perception, when aspirations of the majority of the people are unheeded and fundamental rights of individual, group and communities are being abused by some practices or a system, it is called undemocratic. In fact, it is a dysfunction of democracy. When the mass is systematically or kept out of the decision-making process it is undemocratic.
If democracy is not just a system of governance what else it is?

As defined earlier it is an emerging relationship among the people and between the people and their elected leaders. It is the development of an ethos among the people. This ethos is the core of any democratic system. It is the source of its power and endurance against any challenge.

Our democracy is imposed from above (not emerge out of  people’s aspiration) how can there be a democratic ethos to sustain it?

An analogy of such argument may be that we should invent a wheel every time we need it. The point is, we do not invent always we adopt and adapt also. You cannot wait for a society to develop towards a democratic system as its natural course of development. It is an unrealistic expectation. Civilizations in past have learned about political, social systems from each other.

It is more useful to see from a perspective that what the democracy expects from us. Does it expect us to learn a new form of philosophy? No! It is great if you have a philosophical outlook, but a democracy can work on less that that. Does it expect us to be an orator? Does it expect us to be knowledgeable about issues and concerns? It is great if you have one or more of the above qualities. Yet the democracy can function well with much less than that. It can work if citizens could stand for their own interest. If they will stand, they will force a negotiation in the larger interest of the society. The basic tenets of democracy are to know-your-right, negotiate-for-them and compromise-in-common-interest.

In the context of Indian democracy, the democratic experiences started with British Rule. The whole Gandhian Movement was a training of participation in democratic process. Gandhi emphasized on the mass participation in the political process and local self-government. Sadly this process of political training and mass participation stopped with the independence.

Has our democracy succeeded?

Such question arises in all democracies. I think a better question would be “Is our democracy robust enough?” Because the no dynamic system can be termed a success in absolute term. Democracies are successful in many aspects, but yet there will always be some aspects to work on. We may ask whether our democracy can face the challenges. A democratic society by its nature has many anti-democratic ideologies. Those ideologies vie to share the power pie. A robust democracy should not aim at eradicating them. Any attempt to eradicate, marginalize and suppress strengthens such forces. It should be a constant tactical demonstration of the superiority of the democratic ethos. The robustness of a democracy is its ability to articulate such superiority to emerging challenges.

Does democracy fail?

Democratic systems of governance at times may succumb to the challenges and individual power mongering. But a society with democratic ethos will be able to emerge from the crisis and will reestablish a democratic system.

Is democracy biased towards the literate participants?

Often this argument is given that the citizens of a particular democracy are yet to be ready to participate in a democratic process as they are illiterate and cannot understand the significance of the issues. An attempt to make them aware of the issue before pursuing the issue will have repercussions on the development process. First of all beware of such arguments. They are not democratic. If people do not understand a need for development they are not ready for it. It is often the leaders who in their megalomania try to overstep the democratic process.

Can you explain it more?

Elites in society very often try to discard the process of democratic discussion regarding the need for development. Such actions may have hidden economic or any other agendas. It even can be an outlook that informs their actions.

Please Give some examples?

Jawahar Lal Nehru was an outstanding democratic and secular leader. He believed that India is to be a superpower. It somehow along with other reasons influenced his decision to 1) discard Gandhian form of political participation (based on mass participation in decision making) in favour of a strong centrally created model of development replicated at the peripheries 2) ignore the Chinese power and agitating them.

Leaders who claim that they have a perfect dream to develop the country should not be allowed to overstep the democratic process of discussion.

Again how do you expect the common people to participate in the process of discussion, after all they cannot speak for themselves?

The common people should simply deny any change in status quo till they are demonstratively shown the benefits of the change. They should exercise their subaltern right to negate. They should revolt if unreasonably forced. They need not speak, they just need to bark. Bark a big NO! Everyone should know that they can’t look over. All the interested parties should take pains to explain them the best thing in their interest.

Isn’t it a round logic, once you say they need not understand, they should fight for a status quo, then you want them to be convinced also? How can a subaltern be convinced when he is supposed to be a “subaltern”?

Here there is two things subaltern as a social status and subaltern as political participant. In historical studies we have seen that the subaltern expresses themselves both at the time of insurgencies and at the time of peace. At the time of peace they are unheeded. No one recongise of their passive resistance. But this passive resistance has been successfully used as a political weapon. Gandhi had done that, Martin Luther King had advocated for it. We have seen how the subaltern aspirations overshadows the National Agenda as in case of Chouri Choura. So we should not suppose that the subaltern is politically inarticulate group. Moreover I suppose that we all, whether socially subaltern or not have a subaltern right to negate. We should celebrate this right. This is so much maligned today. The moment you aspire for even a status of literate (not to say that of the intellectual), you may have to drop this right. In fact we all use this right often unconsciously till someone tricks us by saying that “you being a literate person and why are you not open minded”. It is not against being open minded. It is against the politics of being silenced in the name of being open minded towards the forms of development, that is pushed upon us with great media power.

So, how do you propose to participate in democracy by this so called “barking”?

Barking is to welcome any new thing with a denial, it is a canine instinct that don’t accept anything new till it proves itself to be superior to existing power structure or proves that it is a non- threatening entity. This is a denial of the attempts of the dominants who with their whole media power is pushing us to believe “You should be open-minded to new things-you should be acceptable to the changes.” All this sounds great for a personality development class, but is a bad politics. It makes us silent even when we perceive something against our interest. Barking is instinctual. It is alert and responds to every change in the environment. It warns everyone. It negates the dominance of media in the public sphere.

Is not it against the development?

Why should the development need a silent mass? Is that a democratic system? We have a silent mass in The People’s Republic of China. The world capital is vying for a base there. Tata Nano shifted from Singur, West Bengal to Sanand Gujrat. People are silenced with a purpose it is not difficult to understand.



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