Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sequel to the beating of students by the OIC – Dehiyattakandiya

The previous blog entry details the facts referred to in this article below.

After a 52hr journey, when we had just hoped for a 24hr commitment, we finally returned to Colombo at around 11pm on the 30th of July. So it was only this morning that we could check the bonafides of the journalists at the scene. Surprise surprise, imagine that all my worst suspicions were confirmed. The reporters DID NOT SEND reports or photos of the incident to Colombo, obviously for fear of offending the OIC.

This is the whole point of the abuse of power by state officials, be it police or others and even elected officials, as they hold all within their purview hostages in their own homes, not permitting them to do their jobs, effectively and fairly. It is a sign of the times, that power is all powerful and all encompassing, where the law takes second place.

The OIC knows that the law takes years to take its course and individuals do not have the endurance to take matters into their own hands. So he knows he is beyond the law, as he has the power to make things difficult. So much so that even one of our release documents from the hospital, where were able to get our two boys discharged the following day and safely remove them from the OIC’s place of control, was extracted in front of our own eyes by another of the OIC’s surrogates.

It is time that people understand that this is happening and there is something they can do about it. It is up to us who are willing to fight the injustice and the dictatorial behavior of the petty officials to correct the wrongs and give the people of the country their freedom and democracy.

It is this fight that I believe responsible people who read this blog take a stand for and point out to all they know that it is imperative that they fight the system in the most productive way they can and in order to do this task it is important that there is some sense of commitment and priority in achieving this before the whole country plunges into a state of anarchy, dictated to by local goons, back to the days of feudal lords over whom the average citizen has no chance to combat and fight justice for their grievances. The next step by them is “trumped up charges” against all who try to defend freedom. This is enough of a threat to keep people under control and under the thumb of these people’s servants. We must act promptly with a plan to destabilize this obstructive system NOW and ACT. The system is wrong, we have to change it.

We went in ‘Solidarity’ we found ‘Repression’ and we returned ‘Chastened’ by reality.

The Incident where the Dehiyattakandiya OIC assaulted Students who gathered for a peaceful protest on Sunday 29th July, 2012

I was with the Students who came from Colombo, we left on the 11.50pm bus from Pettah to Kaduruwela(Polonnaruwa). We had to take our seats by 10.30pm as otherwise it would be standing room only. We did not take the direct bust to Dehiyattakandiya at 10.15pm, because when we arrived at the bus stand at 8.45pm, all seats had been taken and standing through the night would not have allowed us the energy for the day ahead. I write the latter for readers who do not understand the travails of the majority of people when it comes to normal activity such as travelling distances.

Having arrived at Kaduruwela at dawn we caught an SLTB bus to Dehiyattakandiya in the Digamadulla District and Ampara Electorate, a Rs77 bus ride, that took over an hour and half. It was cool with the sunrise and its colors in the east on the lush paddy fields travelling through Manampitiya, Dimbulagala, Kalukele and Siripura. The bus diverted from the main road to take school children in uniform from the isolated villages to Temple on Sunday morning, a stark contrast to the ‘lama saris’ worn in the Western Province, an indication more of the economic hardships of these villagers, who do not even have the luxury to sew and wear the latter, having to walk distances even to the bus stops. We found ourselves at the Clock Tower at Dehiyattakandiya at 7am, our scheduled time for the demonstration was 11am and we were expecting people from Polonnaruwa, Bibile, Mahiyanganaya and Kandy.

There was a news item on the previous morning, that a student upon receiving her ‘A’ level results reissued with the new Z score, had taken poison and had been admitted to the Dehiyattakandiya Hospital. After a quick discussion, the Sarasavi Yovun Peramuna, the University Students wing of the National Youth Front of the UNP, decided to go to Dehiyattakandiya and protest in solidarity, as this has been an issue the SYP has been protesting since December 26th when the results were first issued and various levels of action had been taken to request the powers to view the subject with importance and not indifference, as it was the lives of students in Sri Lanka and their futures that the Government was playing poker with!

It so happened that Sunday was the most inconvenient day for all those around to come to our demonstration. The UNP youth members of the Dehiyattakandiya Pradeshiya Sabha who in reality could give us assistance, had already left for the rally scheduled for 10am in the SAME ELECTORATE in Ampara, over 100km away. The leader of the opposition was the keynote speaker and so it was a must attend event for them!

Our members in the Polonnaruwa District were engaged in their own electoral activities and meetings, due to the upcoming Provincial Council Elections, and so were unable to send a contingent to support us.

At 11am we were under the shade of a tree at the roundabout, about 10 of us waiting for the arrival of our colleagues from other parts, when a police vehicle drew up, a burly six foot six hunk of a man, a Chief Inspector, and Officer in Charge of the Dehiyattakandiya Police Station got out of the vehicle, and asked us what we were doing, to which we replied that we were waiting for our colleagues before we engage in a peaceful demonstration in regards to the Z score calamity and its aftermath.

He immediately turned aggressive, saying that no one has any right to demonstrate in his area, and demand that we immediately leave the location, and he picked up our property, the cut outs and banners, still unfurled as we had not begun the protest, and got his staff to put into his vehicle. He effectively grabbed them, stole is more like it! and begun ordering us around. We had law students amongst us and told him that what he had just engaged in was a gross violation of the law, and that he had absolutely no right to do what he was doing. We were not engaged in a protest march, we were not obstructing a highway, (if anyone knows the size of the Clock Tower roundabout in Dehiyattakandiya will know there is nothing to match it in size in Colombo!)

He started to hit our colleagues who were now vociferous at his action, the word ‘athin payin gahuwa’ is more appropriate. To the credit of the other police officers around, they did not hit any of our colleagues and only tried to restrain the resulting commotion. If we had done anything wrong he should have arrested us! instead of beating us with his bare hands. I was just horrified at the arrogance of the local chief law enforcement officer!

For different reasons of my own, I could not join in the fray as I was still nursing an injury, and was not able to walk without the aid of the walking stick. The injury was another case of the abuse of the law, where 18 months to the day, the police escort vehicle of the Minister of Justice, crashed into my pickup in Minneriya, destroying my vehicle, and severely injuring me, where I was extricated to be taken to hospital not by the minister’s fleet, but by local people. I have yet to receive a cent in compensation for the huge loss I have suffered at their hands. Such is the rule of law today! That is another story.

In the resulting melee, three of our team was injured and two were dispatched to hospital in Dehiyattakandiya in a vehicle of a Mahiyangana Organizer who had just come after the incident had finished.

The other injured member was the Secretary of the NYF who promptly called the Leader of the Opposition who was at a rally in Ampara, and was about to get on the podium to speak, and briefed him of the event. Within 5 minutes of the incident, the Leader of the Opposition addressing the huge crowd gathered in Ampara, addressed the crowd and informed them that our Students engaged in a peaceful demonstration were illegally attacked by the Police in Dehiyattakandiya, at which point the whole contingent from Dehiyattakandiya almost fell of their chairs in complete shock at the events in their turf, that they were not part of!

The media was present, and I am not happy with their performance! It was the voice cuts from our team soon after the event that the radio stations carried within minutes on their news channels. The local media also depends on the grace and favor of the local OIC for protection, news, and help in their work. They will NOT do anything to jeopardize that! We even suspect that the OIC was about to use the local media to turn the story round to say that the Students attacked him! That is the very serious point here. It is only when there are no local connections, like national media, national politicians, and national student organizations, that can come into the local issues, which without bias and prejudice address some of these issues. If the locals get involved their loyalties are necessarily compromised

What does all this really boil down to? It is simply that the main law enforcement officer in the local areas in Sri Lanka, act as if they are rulers of their areas, not tolerating anyone from elsewhere for ANY reason. They in cahoots with the local politicians, appear to terrorize the local people into submission. I suspect, the locals did not support us was for that very reason. They can accuse people with trumped up charges, and poor people have no way of obtaining the legal redress in the villagers, whereas in the main towns, there is better representation to assist people in cases of injustice.

This incident opened our eyes to what takes place in rural Sri Lanka today. The power of the OIC, and the fear they generate over the local people. It is no wonder that the local politicians are those engaged in most of the crime, or at least are stakeholders therein. It is a combination of the top cop of the area and top pol that even opposition politicians have to engage in an accommodation with. After all once the event came to light, the opposition elected members of our party, were a little cagey to go against their own top cop. He can make life miserable for them. After all they interceded on behalf of their local people, when they have a brush with the law, fair or not. It is they who have to face the wrath of the local OIC if he turns out to be unreasonable. Think about it for a moment, and a whole restructuring of the institution is required.

The original reason and intention of our demonstration suddenly takes second place to the much more serious allegation of “misuse of the law, and the justice system”, to instill fear and terror on the local population. For his fate the OIC today, faced students who were not frightened to talk back and tell him he was wrong. The village people do not have that courage and knowledge, so the law is misused in this way.

It is high time that the Rulers realize that (I am afraid they realize it and use it to their own political advantage and survival) and do something to bring back the rule of law to the country. Remember, when we feel safe in our homes not confronted with this issue, we must realize there are others who are not as fortunate and we must fight for justice for them. Otherwise when there is abuse of power that affects you, there will be no one to fight your case.

Ranjit Hulugalle                                          Ranjit.Hulugalle@gmail.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Priorities change along with the news headlines – the world we live in

Is it the media that makes the news or the other way round. I sometimes wonder in the case of the Sri Lankan media. I know it is an old cliché to blame the journalists and not the news, but I do believe the journalists in Sri Lanka have a lot to learn about news reporting, and independence of their news, and the sources they use, and their reliability.

Further the actual news content that gets printed is often, to the frustration of self respecting journalists, at the whim of the editor or the editorial policy of the news paper or for that matter TV. It is even more frustrating to the rational reader, watcher, that Sri Lanka is very poor at disseminating objective news.

Thanks to the proliferation of blogs we are able to get some news, albeit lop sided, but we know clearly whose side the writer is on, rather than in the news paper where they are trying to have it both ways and not succeeding in either. I find it very interesting to read articles on the blogs, but even here they are limited in the news and political field. There are hardly any political blogs on the web that truly express a frank opinion.

I presume even bloggers fear for their lives in this state where the Govt. is petrified of news against them.

One important matter I would like to point out, as I am constantly besieged with callers, saying why this and that has not even got a mention in the news, when some irrelevant or less important item got into the news. I am at a loss to explain that except to say that the quality of the reporter and his report that he sent to his paper did not get the attention of the editor in the case of an important piece of news.

It is important to know that some reporters are more favored by their editors than others, so it is important when there is a crucial event of national importance that the event organizers ensure adequate coverage by suitable reporters. Sadly it is the onus of the event organizer to ensure the bases are covered this way if his item gets the best coverage.

So readers of Sri Lanka news, remember you are missing about 50% of the news that does not get a place in the media, and you just hope it is not important. The decision has been taken by the Editor! 

The topic of the essay is as priorities change as the daily headlines change, and so our focus also changes, making it difficult for the reader to scale the level of news in order of importance as even some insignificant matter can garner headlines if on that day there is nothing of more significance! 

Another important aspect of news, that applies universally is that in this era of saturated coverage that changes from day to day, heinous crimes are easily forgotten and the criminals get away with them. In the Sri Lankan context the perpetrators of these, many elected members of various councils hope that after a few days their crime disappears from the front page, so that they can slowly get released on bail, (even for murder) until their case comes to be hears, which in this country can be after the criminal has expired from 'natural causes'.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Physiotherapy - The Graduates coming out of the faculty of Applied Health Sciences want a closed shop – How selfish can they get?

A few days ago I wrote a piece on the fact that the new degree program for Physiotherapy, has not resulted in their graduates gaining employment through the Hospitals within the purview of the Ministry of Health. I made a case for them to be included forthwith as it is a critical requirement of any health care sector in any country. It appears in retrospect that the graduates and undergraduates are seeking a pay scale called SL1 or SL2 which they deem appropriate to them, but which if granted, means they will be on a higher pay scale than MBBS doctors.

They must be more realistic, where their starting monthly is about Rs8,000 less than those of Doctors! I am sure they will dispute it, but they must realize they are a profession, and they have a degree. Most degree holders who are not specifically trained for a profession are lucky to get Rs10,000 a month! They must be realistic in knowing why the Govt might be delaying their request. They cannot fit them into a box!!!

To put a spanner in the works, these graduates imply that once their 60 graduate annually from the two Universities of Colombo, and Peradeniya, it is time to close the School of Physiotherapy, which churns out 150+ two year HND diploma holders in Physiotherapy. Even if a prior commitment to do so has been made, it must be remembered that annual requirement of physios in the state health care sector is at least 250, and the shortfall must be met from diploma holders, even though their lack of knowledge is a handicap, but reflected in a lower salary.

The removal of the School, where entry standards are low, will prevent many children from disadvantaged areas from entering a vocation with a genuine need in rural areas. After all the high Z score on a par with doctors that those entering the faculties need, is generally out of reach in areas where there is not even a science stream in their school. Why remove the state school when the private schools are popping up giving HND courses where their products always gain secure employment!

A commenter to my previous blog on the issue said it was like removing an apothecary title once doctors began to pass out. I would say it is essential to have both general practitioners and specialists on the roll, and that these are merely specialists, and need for GP is far greater where the University system currently does not supply the demand only from Graduates. An even more appropriate category would be of doctors and nurses, both are required, there are over 10 times as many nurses as doctors and so it should be.

The need is for more people who can perform physiotherapy on patients. The cost of increasing the intake in the Degree course needs to be considered. I am sure the undergraduates would not like that course to be flooded with 100 instead of 30 in the class. Their exclusivity will get compromised. Just be realistic in your demands. Don't compare yourselves to anyone. Just look at how valuable you are not against someone else and value your worth accordingly. You have science, you have knowledge, you have the best A level grades, and you have a 4 year vocation specific special degree 'free of charge' don't complain, join the exclusive club and savor your place in society. Learn to be appreciative fight for what is just.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So much for Education – what a waste!


The irony of life is if you don’t have an education you want it, and if you do, you wish you had not. Today’s Washington Post headline reads, “Armed with PhDs scientists fail to find jobs.”  Also stated in the Newspaper was that in the league of College degrees, Architects had the highest unemployment rates whilst graduates in the Healthcare field the lowest, indicating that in a population that is aging and a country, that spends a whopping 20% of GNP on health care, still appears to need more healthcare professionals.

So how does the country manage its Education? What education options should a country such as Sri Lanka adopt?

I believe it is a no brainer to have a quality Primary and Secondary school system, so that students learn the basics. How far the secondary education should go is still open to debate, as some say, there is a large segment, who should terminate at O levels and go straight into a vocational training establishment. The resources MUST be directed at that. The argument then is on tertiary education. How much? What? And how advanced? It all depends on the aims.

In Sri Lanka the govt. has made a decision to train nurses, degrees and/or diplomas, but with a view to exporting them to the US! Now why is that when we have a huge shortage of nurses? They want the foreign exchange in preference to a better health care system I suppose. These are all choices that are made. Who makes these choices? And under what basis are they made? Are they sanctioned after public debate or are they on a whim of a politician who has some self interest in the project?

It is worthwhile considering all these questions when determining the options. The main thing here is not to train people to an extent where they are unemployable in the current market place, whilst we have a huge dearth of qualified people for a whole host of jobs in Sri Lanka.

Then there is the skills matching problem, which if we had an established vocational training scheme, would look at the demand and supply of each job category and determine the level of resources to direct to which. In fact it is easier to direct resources to needed jobs either in Sri Lanka or overseas by these Vocational Institutes than with Universities.
One must also not forget the substantial amount spent in Sri Lanka today on private education. This includes, private Montessori schools even in villages where children are sent, and also tuition classes, to say nothing of the number of crammers preparing students for internationally accredited qualifications, such as CIMA, CIM and ACCA to name just a few. Now IT institutes crop up almost daily to cater for the demand for accredited IT degrees that enable people to get instant employment.

It must also be remembered that the SLIIT (Sri Lanka Institute for Information Technology in Malabe) was set up as a semi government body that awards degrees, but which is fee levying. NIBM is another which is also fee levying, though subsidized.

There are many more students enrolling in private institutions after A levels than the numbers who enter University. Ironically I was talking to a graduate of the Sri Lanka University system in Management Studies, who said that he would have been better off if he had not gone to University and had done CIMA instead. He is doing CIMA now, but he maintains that graduating at 25 was a waste of time, whereas had be not gone to University and done CIMA he would have qualified and hold a much more responsible position in a private institution as an assistant finance manager or equivalent. He is only now being apprenticed. I should note that he had all A s at A levels and is a bright student.

I personally believe Sri Lankans do far more exams than required. There are so many double accountants for example, and that is not a requirement for their jobs. So is some segment overeducating themselves, because they can afford to do so? It is important for each person to personally evaluate their life goals and plan accordingly rather than believe that the more qualifications one has the better it is for one.

In conclusion the Education mix, the productivity of it and the choices people make mean that whilst many are starved for education there is a segment which is overeducated by choice. The latter I would argue are not necessarily more productive in society. After all there are many hardly educated entrepreneurs who contribute hugely to society through their businesses and productive steps. The real test is how we arm school leavers at every level to enter employment with a skill that is needed and from which they can progress through their personal journey through life. If we start at that point I am sure the benefits will be manifold.

Monday, July 9, 2012

FUTA action must not gobble up the more serious Education Debate

The strike action by FUTA from July 4th 2012, has paralyzed the State University system. There are no lectures, and students have effectively been sent home until this is resolved. To cap it all, FUTA has drawn attention to a petition they have drafted, for which they are attempting to get a Million signatures. If you cut to the chase, they will drop all these sideshows, once they receive their demands. They will disappear into the woodwork, and as a stake holder in the Education debate, will withhold discourse in case they become part of the problem itself.

As a rule the Trade Union, which is what FUTA is, is both part of the problem and part of the solution. The problem being they have a narrow self interest and the solution being they are the ones providing the critical information with history and facts to strengthen the case for education reform. I agree that as the Education debate is multifaceted, the inputs from FUTA and the Teachers Unions at secondary and primary schools are vital in coming up with a constitutional amendment. There was recently even the statement last week in Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition that we must have an Amendment to the Constitution, to grant free access to Education as a Fundamental Human Right! The state then has to guarantee this to the citizen or to the youth. Quality and real access is another matter.

We know what FUTA want, why are they mixing it with a one million signature petition, for the sake of Education for all? They must concentrate on achieving their demands first. Once achieved, we can fight the unified battle for Education together with all stakeholders, as one common cause to improve the access to education. There are over a thousand organizations that will join in the common fight for better education, in both the private and public sector. If they work together they will be able to put sufficient pressure to achieve their demands as that only comes once in a life time.

What is the petition going to achieve if it is just sponsored by FUTA? Why should they just take credit for a long simmering problem. Only when FUTA action is resolved should we jump into the education debate, so that then, we can have their full attention, not sidelined by their priority which is achieving their demands FIRST. There is a crying need for urgent action on Education as a whole. All the focus must be directed there. This CANNOT be achieved if the FUTA demands obscure the main purpose. There is no question that the media it deserves will also get overshadowed. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

“6% GDP for Education, Save our Schools and Universities” That is the latest slogan of FUTA. Is that hypocritical or patriotic?

FUTA (correct me if I am wrong) represents the University Academics of the State University system. In short it is a trade union of just one category of public servants. They have been for over a year agitating for better conditions, on a par with others in the state sector with equivalent educational qualifications. So if a Central Banker, with a PhD with 20 years has a package equivalent with pensions of Rs200K they should also be on a part if they are a senior lecturer or professor with equivalent seniority.

One must remember that they have noted that in comparison with Dons in other Universities in South Asia, their remuneration pales in comparison. I beg that they do not use those comparisons, as most University lecturers from Sri Lanka who work overseas reside in countries other than South Asia. We do not know if the South Asia dons had to pay for their education, or a product of a free education environment, so such comparisons should not be made. We must also be careful in commenting about their remuneration and package in western educational institutions as that argument would then hold for all those qualified in SL in the free education system who use that to better themselves in overseas employment, a case in point being doctors.

Given the above we must first work out who FUTA are? Like all trade unions, they merely represent the interests of their membership and it is unreasonable to believe otherwise. How many members to they have? What exactly is their grouse, and what will really happen, other than the strikes, if they do not receive their demands?

In the fog or mist of their demands, the basics are missing. Their demands can be accessed on the net as http://futa-sl.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/FUTA_Demands_Comprehensive_19_06_2012.pdf
The quote on the lead is from the latest petition by FUTA which appears to be the way they expect to win their demands. I presume they decided to bundle all the issues with regard to the failure of our education system into their agitation, as that would be empathetic with a public, which have so far not been very supportive of the academics demands, due to their general lack of understanding of what is and what is not reasonable for these categories of academics. So is it fair to include the kitchen sink? 

Personally I believe they must fight their fight without bringing education policy into it as that is a whole different matter that requires National debate. However it appears that for whatever reason the Govt. does not wish to give into their demands, either because they believe they are not of sufficient power to influence the electorate, or are people who are too educated, so they can see the way the electorate is being hoodwinked. The government in their wisdom may prefer them to be engaged in agitating for their rights, rather than pointing out to their students, a far greater electoral population, the smoke and mirrors that the Govt. is engaged in. Therein lies the reasoning for this extended turf war. 

Students at Universities also do not currently curry favor with the Govt. so as pawns in this game suffering from closure and delay in their studies, seem to be an acceptable price, a lesson for them perhaps from the Govt. for their non compliance!

Finally the 6% figure up top is the GDP per cent they want the Govt. to spend on State education, no matter what the Private sector will spend on education as well on top of that, which will shortly exceed the above 6% rate. Look at the rate new educational establishments from Kindergarten to Post Graduate seem to be taking off in Sri Lanka today. 

It seems to be the fastest growing sector in Sri Lanka, catering to an enormous demand to get educated! I just hope that those finally receiving all this education will achieve their personal ambitions, as otherwise  this whole exercise will turn out to be the con of the century!

It is worthy to note that with a higher standard of living, no matter what the Govt. does or does not do, the amount spent on education will keep on rising. The real question is how productive is it? Does the nation get a reasonable return on this spend? Are there opportunities for the poor or less well off to develop within the sector? What is the Govt. policy with regard to the Private Public mix? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What’s on the outside is not what really is inside

The goings on a small village never seems to amaze me, and each time I come here, I am presented with new information, that has convinced me that there is little cohesiveness and spirit left in villages in Sri Lanka. The same disease that afflicts cities has come to the villages. Its called greed and seizing the moment, no matter what the consequences.

A case in point when I went to a house I know. For the first time after a fight, the son was asked to leave the house as he was accused by the dad of being with the wrong company and indulging in smoking weed, and being drunk and pawning his mobile to pay for his needs. He currently does not work, but has also proved to be unreliable in the various jobs he has recently done, and therefore I am loathe to recommend him to anyone. I think it is the company he keeps that has led him astray.

He spends time in the village at a home of a relative. She is twice widowed by 35, now around 40, living with a younger man, who takes care of her two acres of paddy. She has a grown up son in the Air Force and after her first husband died, married a soldier who died in the war, with whom she had no children and was only married for a short while. She receives a full pension of about Rs30K a month. I understand she took the husband’s parents to court, to ensure she got the full pension, as the parents who are poor, had also claimed a portion. She now has a kept man, and she entertains other young men in the house, and feeds them, so her place has become a haven for those who want to hang about doing nothing. It has become a talking point but the woman is not bothered.

The father who has worked hard to bring him up as a single parent, is beside himself not knowing how to put him on the straight and narrow. When one delves a little deeper, one finds the possible reason for this behavior. His mother left for the Middle East when he was a few months, and has not been seen of since. Perhaps she abandoned the family for another on her return, after a liason there! The boy had girl friends in school who all ran off and got married while still at school, and when he came to Colombo for work, a sweet talking woman cleaned him off his life savings, and salary never to be heard from again.

The latter incident gave this boy a nervous breakdown, for which he is still taking medication. Too many abandonment issues to remain sane!
This is just one of many incidents. The men in the village having liaisons with females, here and near, beggars belief, while they try to keep their wayward daughters from straying, only to see them run off at the dead of night, only to be accepted back pregnant and with no sign of the man!

Another girl, left the village for work in a garment factory in Kurunegala, and began a relationship with a boy at work, got married, had a child, and five years later the husband has gone to Jordan for work, and has a woman there, abandoning the wife, who had to return to her childhood home, for want of anywhere to go, and has to suffer the insufferable father who cannot understand the situation, telling her to bide her time till he returns and get back to him.

In these parts girls get involved at young ages, and sometimes even parents marry them of at 16, to as it turns out unsuitable men, worrying that they will get into the wrong company and runaway from home!

Colombo is positively respectable in comparison to the incidence of marital infidelity and discord. There is no question the movement to and from cities for work, as well as overseas travel for long periods has affected the nuclear family to an extent that there is no nuclear family anymore. If one takes this village, there are so many women on their second or third husband or live-in man! What happens to the kids? There is no role model to look up to. There are so many bad examples to follow where the pattern is repeated.

The village temple and ‘maranadara samithis’ (to assist in funerals) do not help in ensuring moral values. I think some of the priests who give sermons sometimes are out of sync with what is really going on here and are unable to advise the people on how to conduct their lives, due to the transient nature of some of the people who attend and also the lack of continuity of the priests in these temples, which are by necessity far less endowed with riches than the city temples.

I think it is high time a current study is done by anthropologists on today’s village society to understand the core issues and devise a plan to correct some of the ills. It is sad that we do not have people of the caliber of Prof Gananath Obeysekere who studied older village traditions, to do the equivalent of the modern day village, and if we do let us be privy to some of their findings and thesis, not just hidden in University shelves.