Wednesday, May 8, 2013

PPSC - Facts As I See Them

This is regarding the civil services exam conducted by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) for the recruitment of higher bureaucracy for the states. The process of the exam started in November 2009 and ended in June 2012 (more than 2 years). It must be noted that exactly similar type of exam is conducted by UPSC for All India Services and Allied services which gets completed in one year. It must also be noted that the PPSC chose to conduct the exam after long 9 years. The last one was full of discrepancies and it had to be re-conducted because the chairman was alleged to have been involved in corruption.

For those who don’t know about the exam pattern. It has 3 stages – preliminary, main and interview. Preliminary exam is an objective type exam where the candidate has to select one option from among 4 or 5. Those who qualify Preliminary appear for Main, which is a subjective exam, the candidate has to write essay type answers reflecting his opinion about the topic asked in the question. In the interview, the candidate is assessed for his personality traits (as it is stated in the brochure) and if he is suitable, he is given marks accordingly. The marks of Main and Interview are then added together to prepare the merit list.

Immediately after the main exam results were declared, many of the aspirants were shocked to find that in order to be eligible for DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police), one has to pass through the following test:

And the candidates were given around a week to prepare for the same. The surprising part is that there was no mention (in detail) of such test in the brochure and the commission could not even upload on the website the same in the more than two years it took to conduct the exam. The motive was clearly to give advantage to a select few because some of the people (as told to me by my friends – no evidence here) knew about the test and had started preparing for the same much earlier. The outcome was as expected – only a handful of candidates were successful.

It must be noted that policing today is more of a mental exercise where officers need to have a mindset where they are sensitive, honest and efficient. But PPSC thought physical ability is more important than mental ability. In this context, it must be noted that an IPS officer selected via UPSC also joins the same/similar post – DSP or ASP but there is no such test there. Officers are given training after they join the training. Therefore, physical ability is secondary to mental make up. When right thinking people are craving for police reforms, I hope this issue also holds importance.

In the main exam, there were problems in some question papers (especially Commerce paper as told to me by Commerce students). Students could not solve some questions with the data given in the question itself. That meant that questions were set by substandard teachers and if not then surely they were not proof-read. This shows how seriously the whole process was taken by the commission.

When the results of the main exam came, some of the subjects – Botany, Zoology - had got 90% marks whereas others could not even touch 70%. These 20 marks made a lot of difference in the merit. No doubt the topper had such subjects. Again this reflects the pathetic and substandard evaluation done by the teachers who may not be well- verse with their subjects. This is quite a common part of our education system where teachers don’t know their subjects but have high degress – Phds or so.

Then a lot of discretion was put to use in the interview stage. Interview comprised 100 marks and it is here that many of the candidates were asked tough questions so that they could not say later that their interview went good but still got less marks. Again, no doubt some people got extremely less marks (around 40%) and some selected few went up till 70 – 80%. One can imagine the difference all this can make in the final merit and that too when the competition is cut-throat.

And one thing more to be added. All this is quite common in other State Public Service Commissions. The members of the commission are selected majorly by way of political contacts (no merit here even though they are supposed to uphold merit in selecting the bureaucracy).

You must have wondered as to why courts did not step in. Infact, there were litigations but it is not surprising to see that courts have often floundered in providing justice (though I still believe that Army and Judiciary are the only two institutions which have some respect left in them. Others have collapsed and degraded).

If these things continue, I am sure the so called ‘Demographic Dividend’ is bound to degenerate into ‘Demographic Nightmare’. 

Refer -

Pumping Iron - For Beginners

I have spent a considerable time in working out in the gym (close to 3 years) and even though I don’t possess a physique that is worth emulating, I have benefited a lot from the process in terms of improving my health. It is only after going through the process that I have learnt a thing or two which I thought must share through this blog.

The content may not help those who have passed the first stage – who join the gym for the first time – but I hope the beginners will immensely benefit from this.

Exercise and nutrition
Good exercise and nutrition are two sides of the same coin. People joining gym often neglect the second part and continue to eat food which are unhealthy. Depending on this diet, they neutralize whatever gains they may have made in the gym. It is known to everyone that a diet rich in protein (I am not going into fast digesting or slow digesting proteins) is helpful in gaining muscles. Some people resort to dieting (drastic reduction in one’s diet) which may further create problems. It is better that you first cut down on unhealthy food (ghee, butter, white bread (maida), sugar, potato etc) followed by a slight reduction in diet. It is always better to have small meals at regular intervals than a big meal once. Make sure you get the proteins you need in your diet. Look over the internet to check natural sources of protein (egg whites, chicken (not butter chicken please) etc). It is difficult to resist from things like chocolate cake, gulab jamun, ice cream etc but if you are able to control yourself initially, you would not have any problem later and eating healthy food eventually becomes a part of your habit.

Choosing the right trainer
In many of the gyms that I have been to, I have seen trainers who don’t know much about the exercises. In many of the cases, the trainer himself has never done any workout. Others have some experience and they try to impart the same to others. Bodybuilding (BB) is a science where every exercise has a logic behind it – which muscles to activate, when to do it etc. But if you try to ask these broscientists, they give you answers that are funny. Therefore, it is important to pick a knowledgeable trainer. If you think that he is not able to give you satisfying answers, go over the internet and learn a thing or two about the exercise that you do. Some websites that are worth seeing are:

There are many others that can be referred to.

Learn your muscles
It is important that you learn your musles – biceps, triceps, deltoids, chest, abdominals, quadriceps etc so that when you do a certain exercise, it is important that you link that exercise to your muscles. Moreover, it always helps if you know what you are doing.

Protein supplements
There is a big market out there for protein supplements. Many people prefer Whey Protein which comes in various forms – isolate. Concentrate, blended etc. The good thing about these supplements is that they give you high protein which is fast digesting and with less fat (this is what people have told me. I have still not used any supplements). One thing is clear that you require proteins if you want to build muscles. So if you are able to get the required protein from your regular diet, it is well and good. But if we talk about a typical Indian diet, it is more of a balanced diet rather than a high protein and less fat diet. So a typical Indian plate would consist of a mixture of carbohydrates, fats, proteins etc. In that case, it becomes difficult to provide the proteins that we require for muscle building. People have estimated it to somewhere 0.8g per pound of your weight to 1g per pound. I don’t know about the methodology followed but if it is true, a regular diet can’t give you so much proteins. Moreover, a high protein diet is not a poor man’s diet. It is quite costly to spend on eggs, chicken, milk etc everyday. It is here protein supplements can help you in giving proteins. Arguments on whether whey protein supplements (WPS) are safe are equally strong on both sides. People who oppose WPS criticize these companies who have marketed their products well and talk about the side effects – some say kidney problems; others liver problem. That is the reason I have not been able to make up my mind. But I am sure, WPS if taken in right quantity and at right time may not pose any problem since whey is considered to be natural – byproduct of manufacture of cheese ( In any case, anything taken in excess is bad. Even your pizzas or burgers.

Focus on the muscles and keep it slow
Many people who join gym for the first time observe seniors and imitate their way of exercises going fast but in the process affecting more muscles than what is required of them ( It is important to keep the motion slow and make sure your mind is focusing on the muscles that are affected – some sort of mind body connection. Keep the weights light at first and once you have mastered the motion and the focusing, gradually increase the weights. Breathing in and breathing out is as important during the process.

First toning/shaping and then mass
If you haven’t been to a gym before, it is important that you first keep the repetitions high and keep the weights heavy enough so that you are able to complete the required reps (12-15). This will allow the toning of the body and give shape to the muscles. It is after this heavy weights can be employed keeping the reps low (5-10) which will help to build mass.

Make a schedule
Again for first timers or even people re-joining gym after a long time, it is important that for the first week or so, you do a mix of all exercises (all muscles per day) so that you touch all the muscles in that period. It will also help you in toning your body. After that you can switch onto one muscle per day type of schedule.

Don’t forget the legs
People generally wish to build big biceps or chest muscles and forget the legs because it is easy to flaunt biceps and chest but legs generally stay covered. I must say that working on legs (quadriceps, hamstring, calves) is more important than everything else. Your whole body rests on legs and therefore stronger and healthy legs become important. Moreover having stronger muscles in legs help you to avoid problems in older age when people have problems in their knees – a common problem.

Even though this is not something that is something new that I have written, people generally overlook them. It is very important to mention here that doing wrong exercise may build you good muscles but the long term bad effects can cause a bigger harm that one can ever imagine.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

People whose opinions don't matter

This is totally a subjective issue. Others may feel that what they say makes sense. But my view is different. Their views don't matter because of the following reasons (in my perspective ):

1. The opinions are lopsided and hence unbalanced and biased.
2. Opinions don't have substance. They talk in generalities which makes less sense, atleast to me.
3. Some of them have low level of knowledge as far as the issue at hand is concerned. Therefore, people may term them as 'armchair critics'.
4. A combination of above.

Kumar Ketkar

Dileep Padgaonkar

Karan Thapar

Sidharth Bhatia

Tehseen Poonawala

KTS Tulsi
Sanjay Jha

Shekhar Gupta

Vinod Sharma

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Media Debates - A Perspective

Though Team Kejriwal (TK) is fighting an anti-corruption battle and therefore it is expected that they themselves are answerable for any wrongdoing, the team does not hold any public office and therefore any comparison with the existing political system would want that the accountability of the latter needs to be much higher.

A lot has been going on in the media regarding this fight against corruption, especially in the last two years when high profile cases have come to light and the courts have begun to take an active role in the governance. In media, the debates that are aired on primetime have adopted a new role where justice (in the realm of perception) is meted out in few hours. As an observer and a citizen, these debates have begun to turn farcical in my perspective. In some (or many) cases, these debates have become a tool of propaganda to fool people who are ‘thought’ to be of low intellect. Though psychology teaches us that many a times people make decisions –sometimes important- without much thinking (termed as peripheral processing), it is hoped that in case of debates people don’t make the same mistake. When courts in India take years (or even decades) to give judgments, most of the fight is fought on perception and therefore these primetime debates assume importance. In the following paragraphs, I have discussed few instances where I feel that media is behaving irresponsibly.

  1. Recently, TK came out with documents showing how there is a strong prima facie case (later media investigations confirmed it) of holding an independent inquiry into some of the cases. The media responded by saying that how can someone hold press conferences and make ‘wild allegations’. Some even pronounced it as ‘Hit and Run politics’ or ‘OB van politics’ etc. But when Mr Khurshid held a press conference, the media responded by saying that he gave point by point rebuttal, though he could not give convincing answers to the specific questions.
  2.  In debates the time allotted to various participants can be easily manipulated. If the total time allotted is given more to one side, the overall impression that a viewer gets is that one side is able to convince comparatively better that the other. More time obviously means that one side has been able to make more arguments.
  3. Allowing rebuttals to one side more often is also a problem. If one side has been allowed to rebut every counter argument made by the other side, it gives an edge to that side and this can also give an impression of fairness to the side which has more rebuttals in its pocket.
  4. In any debate, broadly speaking, there are 4 sets of people – the two parties holding opposite views, neutral experts and the anchor. The issue of ‘unofficial spokespersons’ is well known to people who regularly watch debates. There are a set of people, who are categorized variously as ‘Senior Journalists’, ‘Analysts’, ‘Senior Lawyers’ etc who are expected to give an unbiased view on the issue at hand because they don’t belong to any party. But the problem is that many of these neutral observers are not so neutral in their affiliations. Therefore, it is self-evident that they would be able to tilt the public opinion because viewers tend to believe more what the person has to say when he is perceived to be independent.
  5. It has been observed that media indulges into intense scrutiny into what TK has to say. They are pinned for every argument made by them. (It is already iterated that they don’t yet hold public office.) They are asked to provide all the documents that will prove specifically all the charges made. If that is the precedent that media is setting, then what is the need for an investigating agency? There is something called as prima facie case which the media deliberately chooses to ignore. On the other hand, it is now well known that some of the questions and documents that were part of the press conferences of TK were already in public domain. But media chose to ignore it. No scrutiny here, leave alone intense scrutiny.
  6. Low knowledge level of the anchors – Many a times, it is seen that anchors don’t do adequate homework before coming for the debate. Therefore, they end up asking general questions. This was explicitly seen during Lokpal agitation where it had become increasingly difficult for the proponents of Lokpal to convince these anchors that ‘independent CBI’ is the need of the hour. Now this does not mean ‘no accountablity’. Independence and accountability are separate parameters. The idea is to tire people out so that they get discouraged and demoralized. Similary in the debate on Mr Ashok Khemka, firstly some participants accepted that they have not read the court order on the posts held by Mr Khemka. Some participants chose to indulge into selective reading of the court orders. Now if there is no clarity in the order, then what is the need to have a debate on this specific issue and that too when the person himself is not present to explain it. (
  7. The issue of lawyer spokespersons also needs some consideration. They tend to focus on technicalities (sometimes flawed or one-sided). This confuses viewers who don’t have adequate knowledge about the subject at hand. The objective itself is to confuse people. Fluent English and usage of well crafted sentences does not mean that person is telling the truth. This is the reason why there is often no answer in straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. 
  8. Topics of debates are so chosen as to put a particular side in bad light for no reason. Sometime back Anna Hazare talked of flogging those who drink after they don’t listen. This was created into a debate in one of the channels. But the same anchor forgot that Nehru had said that the corrupt should be hanged to the nearest lamppost. Besides this, topics such as ‘Has TK lost its credibility?’; ‘Has TK or Team Anna lost its steam?’ ; ‘Is TK or Team Anna a media creation?’; ‘Is politics of hit and run sustainable?’; ‘Is TK playing OB van politics?’; ‘Press conference of TK a damp squib?’ throw some light on how things can be downplayed in the eyes of public.
  9. It is quite strange that media has never focused adequately on Subramanian Swamy. He has been fighting some cases in the Supreme Court which are of national importance – Ram Setu, EVMs etc - but he has not been given his share of coverage.
  10. Sometime back Mr Kejriwal challenged in Devil’s Advocate to call one of the accused parties in the expose done by them. The challenge is still open. (

The net result is that social media has come to reflect the real views of the people and act as a counter to the mainstream media.

From the above arguments, it is clear that some (or many) of these debates are conducted to fulfill certain objectives that speak contrary to the fact that Media is the Fourth Pillar of the Democracy. There is still a belief that there are some people in Media who know that they have a responsibility towards the society and therefore there is no attempt to paint everyone with the same brush. Now when the country is changing, it is high time that all the pillars of democracy stand up to fulfill the aspirations enshrined in the Constitution. 

(Argument should not be made that the article wants to convey that all debates that are aired come in the above category.There are debates and debates.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

People whose opinions matter

Maroof Raza

Ajai Sahni

Ajai Shukla

P Sainath
GD Bakshi
Prakash Singh
Rahul Mehra

Praveen Swami
Soli Sorabjee

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

Yogendra Yadav

TSR Subramaniam