Are we are imprisoning ourselves in the ‘cell’ of our cell phones?

Take a walk around your city and everywhere you will run into people bent over their cell phones. Sometimes neck tilted holding the cell phone in the grip of ear and shoulder; sometimes necks bent 90 degree, eyes dug deep into the smart phone screen. In the past decade this phenomenon has given rise to plenty of debate, questioning whether it is healthy or not to imprison ourselves in this ‘cell’ phone and how it has ended our social lives. This debate often overlooks another fact. Human species has lived this way for years now. First we bent our necks over newspapers, then books, and now cell phones. It is not an argument for technology, it is rather an argument for human behaviour and needs.

These cell phones, rather than acting as a prison with sealed walls, are gateways to a whole new world. They foster relationships even at a distance, encourage people to voice their opinion and the experience can be highly customized to a person’s qualities and desires. An introvert can finally find a platform for his voice on twitter, a shy young man too can hope to find love on tinder, a small business man can sell his products on Alibaba in various countries without worrying about language barriers, and a house wife can find a platform to learn English or earn money by free lancing. This cell is anything but a ‘cell’.

Cell phones are often blames for reducing social real life interactions but in reality, they have done something exactly opposite. Rise in technology has been accompanied by increasing number of malls, food outlets, gaming zones, public gathering places etc. Telecom revolution changed how people lived their lives. Every loved one was suddenly a phone call away. Even in present day, cell phones  deepen human bonds even when people move far away. Bringing people across geographic and ethnic borders closer is no less than a miracle.

Cell phones have also made life much easier by bringing together every aspect of life from banks to education to healthcare to paying bills. With improvement in technology, they will be able to do things better and faster and even more functions could become a regular thing for cell phones.

Rather than being prison cells of human mind, cell phones are portals of freedom in so many ways. Cell phones have and will play an important role in the years to come by fostering social interactions and making the world a more connected place to live in.

Censorship in the age of Internet

Advent of Internet ushered us in an era of connectivity with the hope that the world would be more open, transparent and fair when there are so many eyes watching. But the purpose was beaten to smithereens when censorship came into play. Censorship means the practice of blocking or modifying certain content (Videos/ Text /Images) to prevent it from making an impression on the mass.

While censorship comes with both its pros and cons, it is its scope and expanse that is under question. Where and when is censorship ethical? This question is indeed difficult to answer but every nation in the world has found a way to answer it in their own way. Being a communist nation, China took the path of blocking major foreign websites and instead supported local websites like Baidu and Alibaba. Censorship was done to protect nationalist interest. Countries like North Korea practice heavy censorship, the people of NK have no access to outside world. All the websites, TV programs are owned by the state and the content is heavily curated. But in the recent times, thanks to internet, quite a few documentaries (shot by undercover agents)have emerged, providing insights into the life in NK. Countries like Syria, Israel censor websites  to prevent the information of political unrest in the country to reach out to common people inside/outside the country. Then there is Saudi Arabia that censors “Content from the West” to protect its people from the western culture which it frowns upon.  

Censorship in democracies has been practiced quite rationally but not without criticism. Very often censorship on movies and songs are debated in countries like India and Pakistan. For Instance, when the movie “Udta Punjab” was released in India it came under a lot of scrutiny from censor board while the supporters of the movie insisted it showed the reality of our country which was indeed dark and hence should be released uncensored. Censorship proves quite useful when it comes to regulating content for children, family TV etc. but there comes time when the debates become quite grey and it is difficult for anyone to take sides.

In the past decade or two, internet has played an important role to expose truths and bring more transparency (Wiki leaks, Hillary Clinton’s emails etc) to the world. If censorship is to be practiced, it should be done on more rational, democratic lines. No doubt the countries that heavily sensor the Internet are the ones with one or other form of authoritarian governments. Here we need to promote openness and condemn irrational censorship. Any steps to increase transparency should be welcomed. But there are certain grey areas where we need to take censorship with a pinch of salt as its application might not be always right or always wrong. To conclude, censorship is integral to maintain our democracy, culture and to uphold our freedom but it should be done in moderation and on rational lines.

Indian Tiger Vs. Chinese Dragon

China and India, two fast growing economies in the world with largest and second largest populations respectively, have all eyes on them. The world looks to the east and sees the sun rise on these two nations. But the relationship between two economies has been competitive and complicated at its very best. Armed with a communist/authoritarian regime, China plays by rules much different than those of India. While the intellectuals vehemently spoke of the benefits of a dictatorship and that a dictator would be able to get more out of its populace in forms of taxes and labor and thus give rise to a richer economy, India held democracy close to its heart and managed to prove that the road to growth does not have to be stained with the blood of its people.

Today India’s GDP stands at approx 6% of World GDP, while that of China stands at approx 16% of World GDP. But the difference can be accounted for. While the Chinese dragon started breathing fire in 1980, Indian tiger started roaring around early 1990s. Given the head start and the repressive regime policies, Chinese economy soared high. But now the times are a-changing. Recently the IMF forecast predicted that Indian economy will grow faster than that of China in the next fiscal year. Though Chinese economy is already much bigger than that of India and this comparison doesn’t really matter, it is a good news for India. We might not be there yet but the signs are showing good times ahead and India seems prepared to grab the silver lining.

While China will have to deal with an aging population in the coming decade, India will have the world’s largest young/working population. China’s ‘One child policy’ has done great damage to its economy. It is left with a very large aging population that cannot contribute to its economy and a relatively small working population to support it.  On the other hand, India placed no such restrictions and very soon will reap the benefits of it (at least from an economic standpoint). While the Chinese economy is showing lowered manufacturing activity, India is all set to increase it with various government schemes such as Make In India in place.  Indian manufacturing sector has a lot of potential as it can provide employment to relatively less educated/uneducated population in the form of manual labour. With the current government’s emphasis on brining in FDI, the economy is set to benefit in the long run as better investment will lead to better infrastructure, employment and growth.

Apart from Internal factors, there are a lot of external factors that will affect both the countries in the coming years. One of them being US President Elect, Donald Trump. His disbelief in Chinese government might influence the future policies that US makes with China and could hurt the Chinese economy. India is not safe either as our highest FDI Inflows come from US and Donald Trump is inclined towards reshaping US to a protectionist form of economy. Donald Trump is not the problem, it is the will of people of US and other countries in the west. During US presidential elections 19 out of 20 candidates supported protectionism in the markets. Brexit occurred as a result of people wanting to close their borders, even if it came at the expense of economic growth. These events are a window to the mindset of people in west. With such a disaster looming on global front, both India and China will have to prepared to reduce their dependence on other countries and If possible, use it as a golden opportunity to rise as leading global economies.

China is already making efforts to make its presence felt globally. Chinese currency Yuan was recently added to SDR ( Special Drawing Rights) basket at IMF, making it part of the elite group. The ambitious CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor)  and OBOR (One Belt One Road) will improve trade connectivity  of China and improve its trade prospects by facilitating smoother/faster trade via land and water. While CPEC is being seen as an act of strategically side stepping India politically, it has more to do with the economic health of China. It will facilitate its exports and give a boost to its economy.

On the other hand, India is trying to improve its global prospects by improving its strategic relationships with countries. It has launched schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana to pull its poor out of poverty. Schemes like Make in India, Digital India are revolutionary and have the potential to uplift our economy. With focus shifting to cashless fair/transparent economy in the wake of Demonitization, there is no doubt India is leaving no stone unturned to ensure its people rise with the country.

While things look quite bright for India, there is still a lot of work to be done. China has a large proportion of its female population in the workforce while the corresponding numbers in India are very low. India also lags behind china when it comes to Infrastructure and education/literacy rates. For India to do well in the longer run, it will have to improve on all these fronts. Encouraging women empowerment and education, improving investment in roads/railways and imparting quality education to all will work to India’s benefit. We have indeed come far, but we still have a long way to go.

Democracies fail when they ask too little of their people. India needs to call its people to participate in this wave of growth and play their part well. We all need to contribute to ensure our country achieves its true potential. Given the right strategy, India Tiger will rise against odds and will emerge as a winner irrespective of how many dragons breathe fire on its way.

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