Book Review on Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Dr. Yuval Noah Harari has done an excellent job in this book which surveys the history of humankind from the Stone Age up to twenty first century. With this book, Harari tried to motivate his readers to question themselves, even if they are controversial. He wants his readers to question their beliefs, the basic narratives of their world and to build up connections between the past developments with present concerns. After completing the book the readers are expected to be left with too many questions on whatever they have known about their species, its evolution and the world till date.

Translation of this book can be found in 20 languages which show its popularity. The book was first published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 and in English in 2014. It has also been presented, via online courses, to thousands of mind blown people.

The name of the book reveals the theme of the book itself. The book’s title is a sort of a reminder that, long time back, the world had half a dozen species of human, of which only homo sapiens survives today. The main argument Harari tries to make is that Homo sapiens is dominating the world because it can cooperate flexibly up to a certain number. The other animals lack the ability of cooperation and thus, Homo sapiens wins the race. The ability to cooperate comes from believing in the myths those are formed from various narratives by the human beings. Humans have the special powers to narrate their own form of stories and persuade the fellow humans to believe in the myths. This special feature makes human beings a super sapiens. Harari makes a controversial argument saying that all large scale human cooperation systems (such as, freedom, human rights, capitalism, religions, political structures, trade networks and legal institutions) are all made up on the basis of pure imaginations. The abilities of humans to share their thoughts, store and build up information is not common in the other animals.

As a historian it would have been an easy task for the writer to dig deep into how the evolution of Homo sapiens occurred. But the credit to him goes only when he critically analyses various historical happenings with scientific facts. It is not the historical data for which one should read the book but the interpretations of Harari for every event of the past. Harari has been great in building up a relation between history and biology. Also very cleverly he has divided the book into four sectors which again have few sub parts. Each of the sector deals with a concept like Cognitive Revolution, The Agricultural Revolution, The Unification of Humankind and The Scientific Revolution respectively. The sections under these sectors describe the main theme in great details. For example, in the first sector (The Cognitive Revolution) he writes about how human beings used their super powers of their brain and proved to be intelligent than the other sapiens. The second sector (The Agricultural Revolution) deals with how human made the nature do what they wanted. The following sector is The Unification of Humankind which shows the power of money and religion as tools to unify people. The final stage of the book is The Scientific Revolution which deals with the super powers of human beings. It says that how the human beings used science and became the most powerful species alive.

While I liked most of the arguments Harari makes, I am highly persuaded by his argument where he tries to say that agricultural revolution was the biggest mistake of humankind. He tried to justify his argument by saying that although agriculture allowed civilization to thrive but at individual level it has been a curse. He says that we were better off as hunter gatherers. As farmers, people had to work extremely hard and in return had a worse diet to that of foragers. Social hierarchy is also a result of agricultural revolution. Also, the agricultural societies have raised the number of deaths and violent activities due to competition over resources.

On one hand I am highly impressed with the persuasive writing style of the writer, on the other side; I am also disappointed because the author tends to impose his train of thoughts on the readers. It’s always good to be able to persuade the maximum numbers of readers with your writing but the writer should always set his readers free to have their own interpretations.

Anyways, I would recommend this book to everyone who is interested to know about their own species in details. This book certainly shows that doubts are good to broaden the horizon of knowledge of any person. The most beautiful thing about this book is a lot of details have been gathered by the author in much smaller number of words. Also, the breakup of the book in to various modules, chapters and sub chapters makes it an easy read for all. This may be an incentive for those who hates to read fat books like me. The book will keep its readers engaged till its end.

 

 

Job or Skill? A chicken-egg dilemma

by megha sharma(@megha0111)


 It is almost a conundrum whether we need to create a job first or to skill first.


India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The government of India has relaxed the FDI to encourage the manufacturing  by both domestic and foreign companies. “Make in India” mission led by the government is also expected to increase the manufacturing sector in the country. This increase in the manufacturing sector will eventually enhance the number of jobs. The other national mission towards the growth of the nation being Digital India, Start up India, Smart Cities etc.

But is it only the jobs that we require?

Even if the number of jobs are created in large numbers due to these missions, there is a need for a skilled workforce to make these missions successful. Success needs necessary skills. The youth population of any country is the driving force for its socioeconomic development. But the only way to utilise the young force efficiently is to channelise them properly. And hence skill development along with the employment plays a vital role in mobilising them.

India has the largest young population in the world, yet lacks in the skilled manpower. As per the labour bureau report 2014, the current size of India’s skilled workforce is only 2%.  India is facing the challenge of employability despite educated youth.

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The government of India has proposed the skill India mission, which aims at providing a framework to meet the challenges of Skilling. The mission claims to skill over 40 crore people by 2022. The policy thus proposed is the National policy for skill development and entrepreneurship 2015. The slogan for the mission being ” Kaushal Bharat Kushal Bharat” i.e Skill India Successful India.

 

But is it only skill that a person will require to get a job or is it more than that?
 

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It took around 50 years for us to make the  primary education compulsory. The skill requires being backed by the education. There has to be an improvement in the quality of school education along with the skill training. So that by the time students pass out they are skilled as well as well educated. This is when they will be called job-ready. This huge mismatch between education, skill training and employment cannot be ignored. 

 

 

Stay tuned to read about the various challenges faced by skill India mission, the narratives behind the logo and much more in my upcoming blogs.  

 

Megha Sharma is pursuing M.A in public policy at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

Ambulance-need of flying ambulance

Saving life has become an expensive affair?

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On several busy roads like M G Road, Bannergatta road, silk board, majestic, Malleswaram , Bellandur, jayanagar-almost all major junctions in Bangalore where private vehicles struggle to overtake or go fast comes to a sudden halt because of loud siren from behind. Yes, its a vehicle with a glittering red / blue cap on it. The situation worsens when all the vehicles including ambulance get stuck in a major signal. If one wants to give way to the ambulance also, feels helpless at this point. During festival time, where pedestrians are huge in numbers, on road also becomes problematic. Is road a safe transport for patients who are carried on ambulance? Well, may be for some. But what about the critical patients who need medical assistance within say, 15-20 minutes? Road accidents(factory accidents), heart attacks, complicated pregnancies, burns, coma patients, dehydration, surgical emergencies, pediatric emergencies are some examples.

In the year 2014, Karnataka health minister U T Khader had introduced two wheeler ambulance where the trained paramedic driver will reach the accident spot in 10 minutes for medical assistance till the four wheeler ambulance makes its way. The initiative was implemented through the organisation that runs 108- Arogya Kavacha ambulance service, GVK-EMRI. 30 bike ambulances were launched out of which 21 bikes will be stationed in strategic locations and one each in districts of Mysuru, Dharwad-Hubballi, Tumkuru;etc. The government has spent around 2 lakhs on each air ambulances which carry 40 medical items which includes stethoscope, pulse oxymeter, bandages and 4 normal salone apart from 53 basic drugs. The same health department is working on introducing air ambulance in the state.

The 108 service has assisted 29.4 lakh people in many health emergencies by placing 517 ambulances strategically armed with all medical equipment and life-support medicines.

The traffic police on field comes into picture for coordination. Whenever there is a traffic jam, Emergency management and research institute (EMRI-GVK) gives alert for clearing traffic on a particular stretch.

Even after establishing health care support, we continue to see unfortunate instances on roads where people lose there lives. People lose lives either on their way to hospital or on road itself. In my opinion 70% of lives can be saved by ambulance where time is not an issue if the ambulance is equipped with necessary equipments. 20% of the lives can be a cause of concern where ambulance assistance is not enough and time is a major constraint. 10% of the cases can be deadly where chances of survival are very low even if the patient is taken to hospital in time. Recent example of Mr. Harish who lost his life after his body was cut into two pieces after a truck hit his motorcycle. Ambulance had reached the spot within 7-8 minutes from the time accident was reported.

Can air ambulance be an answer for critical patients who need immediate medical care? How the city will look like? How many helipads are required for hospitals and residential areas? Will Government give permission to residential areas for having helipads? What will be the cost of air ambulance and aviation fuel? Affordable? How government hospitals deal with this change? These are some important questions which need to be answered.

Sources revile, the price of jet fuel as of January 2015 is 170.8 cents(US dollars) per gallon which is 11,459 in Indian rupees for 3.78 liters. At present hospitals like Manipal, Apollo, fortis are having air ambulance facility. In the year 2007, AIIMs hospital planned to have air ambulance facility but no further information is available on its current status.

Panchmukhi Air Ambulance Service From Delhi

Hospitals with this facility have emergency numbers on their respective websites. Sources say that there are three points in Bengaluru with air ambulance facility. They are Medivic aviation air ambulance in Malleswaram, Air ambulance in Electronic city phase-2 and air ambulance aviation in Hulimavu, Bannergatta road.

Critical patients should get this air ambulance facility. Hospitals used to charge around 10K per service 4-5 years back. Provision should be done where patients are carried from a place where air ambulance can land, say, open space or helipads on major apartments which have strong foundation. Government hospitals can take help of state government with regards to air ambulance simultaneously working with few major private hospitals. There are few companies in Bengaluru as well who volunteer themselves for air ambulance facility.

Keeping four wheeler ambulance in mind, each one has to be equipped with the ICU facilities, same as hospital, with a designated doctor and nurse with basic medicines to save lives. As of now bike ambulances are not seen, but if they are there ,they have to work in tandem with the four wheel’d ambulance. It would be good to have ambulance equipped with controls that allow them to manipulate signals to allow easier movement for them on the road.

After all life is everything in front of luxury and money. If government comes out with air ambulance solution in future, you have life, you have world.

-Lakshmi Raghavan (MA-PP)

 

Aamchi Mumbai

In this short break of 1 week, Mumbai was on my bucket list.

We flew from Bengaluru to Mumbai on 3rd September 2016. As soon as I landed in Mumbai, my face was lit up with happiness and joy. When I was at the airport, I wanted to see the whole city in one go acting as if I will not be allowed to stay. During my stay I observed airports, infrastructure, public, went from south to north of Mumbai, celebrated Ganesha festival, experienced public transportation.

We got our luggage on time; we came out of the airport and got into an auto, going towards Ghatkopar (West). While travelling, I observed two airports; one is international and other one is domestic, who share a common runway. Because of this reason the domestic airport becomes little busy. The international airport is in the area called Sahar which is 3 kms away from domestic airport.

As we were entering the city, leaving airport area behind, I could observe lot of slum dwellers saying either in tents with blue sheet in common as roof or people staying under bridges or flyovers. This scene was so evident that nobody can avoid it. Statistics says Bhandup is having 85% in slums, Chembur 77.55%, Khar and Santacruz 78.9% and majority of slum population in Mahim, Matunga. Some of the areas badly filled with slums are Bhandup, Malad, Mulund, Chembur, Santacruz, Kandavali and Khar east. Because of this poverty people are forced to beg on streets or remain seated on the divider of roads.

The transportation is well connected to the suburbs and the town. There are taxies known as ‘kali-peeli’ as well as aggregated taxi service like ola and uber. One can venture self drive using options like myles and zoom car, but it will be discouraging for those people who would be looking for smaller cars as there are very limited options. There are local trains and metro services that allow people to commute the length and breadth of the city. There are government buses called BEST(Brihan Mumbai Electric Supply and Transport) plying within the city and the suburbs. One can find few double decker on selected routes, for example bus no. 332 which travels from Andheri to Kurla.

You can frequent the chart counters at juhu choupati for lip smacking chat items. Behind gateway of India one can find ‘wok’ Chinese restaurant where in one can choose there set of vegetables in their noodles. Fun place to be in! If you travel to the western suburb of  Charni road railway station, you would find rather unique ice-cream shop offering chilli ice-cream, pan ice-cream and vodka ice-cream to name a few.

On your way to north from the south of Mumbai, if you drive on the P D Mello road you would see Ganesh pandals in a row, each claiming to be the best pandal in the city. Among all these, the only famous Ganesh pandal is Lalbag Raja which general public as well as celebrities offer their prayers and seek blessings from lord Ganesha. The localities get completely involved in prayers with huge sound systems playing music along with drum beats.

The tourists spots in Mumbai are Gate way of India which is next to famous Taj hotel, Elephanta caves – which is also marked as unesco world heritage. You have to take ferry from ticket counter till caves, which is about 45 minutes of ride. You can find a security named  Mr.M K Jha who has deep knowledge about the history of that cave. While walking towards the caves there are lots of hawkers on both the sides and the path is inclined with uneven steps. If you buy a cooked corn to relish, you probably have to throw the corn mid way as one can witness lots of monkeys waiting to steal it from you.  Tarapur aquarium is a place to visit, where one can find different sizes, shapes and countries fishes maintained cleanly. It is situated on marine drive. Hanging garden is a place to relax. You feel energised to drive on sea link with the breeze from the sea. Famous beaches like Juhu, Girgaum Chowpati, Aksa, Varsoa are also worth a visit.

One has to plan a visit to Mumbai prior and stay for at least 15-20 days to experience life and come and fall in love with the city.

-Lakshmi Raghavan(MA-PP)

 

 

 

Water Woes

by Megha Sharma (@megha0111)

Are the mechanisms to solve Indian water disputes ambiguous and opaque? 

In economic’s perspective water is a scarce resource which is to be allocated and used efficiently. It does provide the welfare to the citizens as it contributes to health, agriculture, and industries. Since the river crosses the states, the disputes are inevitable. India has been facing the water disputes at both centre-state and inter-state  level. The most prominent of all disputes, being trending in the news these days, is the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The others on the list being Punjab-Haryana over Ravi-Beas waters ,Krishna-Godavari disputes between Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, Mahadayi water disputes and so forth.

India’s federal structure provides the Union list, the State list and the Concurrent List. The Union List consists of subjects of national importance, the State List consists of subjects of local interest, and the Concurrent List has subjects important to both the Union and the State. River issues hail under the state list but the regulations and development of water come under the union list. State government holds the power to allocate the river water to the riparian states. The inter-state water disputes Act, 1956 was legislated to deal with River conflicts and make laws to adjudicate the disputes. The provision of the establishment of tribunals (when  negotiations do not work) is also included in the act. Tribunals decide over the share of water to be given to different states involved. Which may, in some cases ,lead to the equality-efficiency trade-off. Although sometimes, states refuse for such tribunals and even after the intervention of union government, the water conflicts in some cases are yet left unresolved.

Continue reading “Water Woes”

The P Word.

Palliative Care, though around for 20 odd years in India, needs a focused rejuvenation.

Swati Sudhakaran@TheMindMap

India is the worst place to die. Don’t take my word on it. Consider the Quality of Death Index of 2015 which ranks India 67th out of 80 countries, below South Africa (34), Brazil (42), Indonesia (53) and Sri Lanka (65). The index prepared by Economist Intelligence Society ranks UK at no. 1 which makes it a pretty decent place to say our final goodbyes.

The index is prepared by considering 20 odd criteria such as palliative healthcare, human resources, affordability and quality of care and community engagement.

Palliative Care, the concept of pain management and care-taking that started tentatively in the mid-1980s in India but faced multiple problems in its expansion in the next two decades like – population density, poverty, restrictive policies like opioid prescription and lack of institutional interest in palliative care.

It showed a surge in the latter-half of the 1990s, with centres coming up in Delhi (CanSupport), Chennai (Jivodaya), Bangalore (Karunasraya) and other states like Assam and Goa. But the rise is still insufficient considering the population boom in India over the years.

What is palliative care?

As defined by WHO, palliative care is “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psycho-social and spiritual.”

It is often seen as only being for cancer patients, but actually has a much wider arena of care-giving to most incurable diseases like HIV and even chronic neurological problems. The core team is of doctors, nurses and social palliative workers. Nutritionists, pharmacists, massage therapists may also be a part of the team. The care can start as soon as a conclusive diagnosis is provided and the treatment is initiated.

 

 

Why Palliative Care?

In simple terms, palliative care improves the quality of life of the patient, something that is often overlooked by doctors in the course of locating the tumor, or finding the cure for the illness. The trauma -both mental and physical, endured by the patients in the course of the treatment often make them detest life itself and the plight of the relatives also takes a downfall upon seeing the distress of their loved ones. Symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, constipation, nausea are taken care by them. The solutions to such symptoms follow a simple course but as mentioned, are often neglected in the larger scheme of medical healthcare in India.

To take the instance of Rajkumari, age 75 years, who was experiencing discomfort in swallowing food, due to the blisters that had developed in her mouth, a common side-effect of chemotherapy. She refused to intake food because of the pain and this led to the entire family not eating.Enter CanSupport, a palliative care for cancer patients. They administered a few rounds of mouth washes with sodium bicarb in water and Rajkumari felt relieved almost instantaneously and she resumed eating, to the great relief of the family.

Palliative Care focuses on improving the quality of life irrespective of how long the patient has to live and whether or not a cure is available.It has often been referred to as the Jaadoo ki Jhappi from Munnabhai MBBS.

Palliative care deals with the tough confrontations that lies ahead in the patient’s life regarding his/her illness. The balance of hope and denial have to be worked out with care.Truth can be soothing if administered in the right dosages at the right time. It has been said, “Break bad news well and you will always be remembered, break bad news badly and you will never be forgotten.”

The Kerala Model

Kerala, though it covers only 1% of India’s land mass and contains 3% of India’s population, has now more palliative care services than the rest of the country put together. Two-thirds of the country’s palliative centres are in Kerala.

The Kerala model of Palliative Care has been known to work. The Neighbourhood Network in Palliative Care, a community-owned programme in Kerala, is a project that evolved out of a series of need-based experiments in the community.

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The initiative has now grown into a vast network of more than 500 community-owned palliative care programmes looking after more than 15,000 patients at any given time. It has a workforce of more than 15,000 trained community volunteers, 50 palliative-care physicians and 100 palliative-care nurses, according to WHO’s Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life, 2014, report.

A relatively recent development had been in the period 2005-08, when on the request of Pallium India, The Government of Kerala appointed a committee to draft a policy on palliative healthcare in the state. The policy came into being in 2008 and its implementation has been left with the National Rural Health Mission which has been a success.

The Obstacles Faced 

The Narcotic Substances and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) act of India brought out in 1985 made procurement of morphine very difficult and also attached a stigma to its usage. It imposed heavy penalties on even small clerical errors and needed 4-5 licenses all valid at the same time , procurement of which required the concurrent functioning of multiple departments of the government. Thus, gradually pharmacies stopped stocking morphine such that in the year 1997, India saw a massive drop of 92% in morphine consumption, whereas the global consumption during the same period went up by 437%.

Though the NDPS has now been simplified, it has still not been implemented by State Governments. The National Programme in Palliative Care, which had been instituted in 2012 also suffered in propagating further due to budget cuts.

 

 

There are some things that are definitely looking up for the palliative industry like the National Palliative Care Strategy (2012) that has been sketched out. Also with AIIMS starting the first MD in Palliative Care and a DM in cancer pain management shows that palliative care has been finally acknowledged as a proper discipline.

Palliative Care requires lot of passion and commitment as its services go beyond the biomedical aspects of life to the right of living with dignity while accepting death as an inevitable part of life. It is the absence of such services that lead patients to demand for mercy killing or euthanasia. Hence it becomes imperative to combine medical treatment with palliative care to provide holistic treatment to the patient.

 

Swati Sudhakaran is currently pursuing MA Public Policy at Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru