Preface (1997)

TAMILNADU :
Yesterday-Today-Tommorrow

N.Muruganandam
New Jersey

New Jersey Tamil Sangam (NJTS) is a non-profit organization registered in the state of New Jesey, U.S.A. The association was formed in 1989 to promote the welfare of Tamils living in New Jersey and all across the world. NJTS has a primary function of organizing social, cultural and literary events in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut areas. Many of the NJTS members come from the state of Tamilnadu and so the association has a commitment to promote the welfare of Tamilnadu.

In 1992, NJTS initiated a project for a review of life in Tamilnadu. An essay contest was conducted among college students in Tamilnadu and Pondicherry. About 450 students participated in the contest and the prize winning essays were published in souvenir released on April, 1993. The souvenir covered 12 topics.

NJTS has continued on the second phase of this project this year. The scope of the project has been extended to survey 36 topics ranging from agriculture to consumer awareness. The topics are reviewed by well known experts in each field.

The objectives of the project and the rationale for selecting these topics are described in this introductory article.

The year was 1947. World war finally ended. So, was the British Raj. India got its well deserved independence. To gain this independence, numerous sacrifices had to be made. Forefathers gave their lives in the hope that their children and grandchildren will enjoy the fruits of a free country, governed by its own people and own culture. Forefathers gave away their pleasures and lives for the sake of founding a democracy for a nation of millions. Forefathers shed their blood in the hope that in future, India, every state in India, every village in India will be democratic and in democracy everyone will be entitiled to freedom, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Forefathers had a dream that prosperity will come to the people because it is a country governed by its own people and own culture. Forefathers had faith in their children that they will carry out a true and honest experiment in the political process. The founders had a vision that the truth will be tested, honesty will be verified and the status of the country will be analyzed, time after time.

The year is 1997. A country has been governed by its own people and own culture for fifty years. The state of Tamilnadu has been governed by its own sons and daughters for five decades,. It’s time to take stock. Did we come up to the expectations of our forefathers? What did we do or failed to do? Is everyone free? Is liberty availble to everyone? Are there opportunities for everyone to pursue happiness? How prosperous is an ordinary citizen? Time to ask questions; time to dig facts and time to echo our concerns. We can not ignore the fact that the pillars of democracy rest on the alert consciousness of its subjects. It’s the wish of the forefathers that the progress of the nation will be monitored. Progress of the nation comes from the progress of its states. Progress of Tamilnadu is of special interest to us and so our questions are directed towards this state.

Now we proceed with identification of certain issues in some important areas of day-today life:

What is the standard of living of a typical farmer? Did it really change after indepndence? Does the economy drive the farmers out of villages? Did the agricultural methods change with time to incorporate the advances made in other countries in this field?

How are the villages administered? Did Grama Rajya-Gandhi’s dream become a reality? Did we devise any fundamental administrative mechanism to communicate the problems of the village to the state head quarters?

Did we improve irrigation in these fifty years? Is the water managed efficiently so as to supply the needed lands?

Droughts and flooding used to be a routine phenomenon in the pre-independent period. Did the situation change? Rivers were recognized as symbols of national integration by poets and eminent public officials for long time. But linking rivers and thereby reinforcing national integration is slow. Why can’t we implement these plans even after fifty years in spite of revolutioary developments in technology?

What did we accomplish in the industrialization? Did it improve the economy? Did it improve the standard of living of industrial worker? Is the industrialization uniform throughout the country?

How does the current industry affect the people and the environment? How severe is the pollution of air, water and food? Is our environment safer? Do we have stringent laws to protect land, water, air, food and people from greedy elements in the industry?
Health of an industry depends greatly on the availability and distribution of energy. How are the various forms of energy namely hydroelectric, thermal nuclear and solar put to the use of industry and the citizen?

Starting big industries, handling national projects like linking rivers, water management etc. depends on centre-state relations. How are the State and Central Government Relations?

At the time of independence every state in India had a low economic base. Now after fifty years how did the economy change for Tamilnadu and the nation. Did the per capita income increase uniformly with the national average? If economy is claimed to show improvement in terms of state income and per capita income, does it really represent typical agricultural or industrial worker. Is the wealth distributed well?

Banking and insurance are vital to the economy. What are the improvements made in this area?

Agriculture, industry and economy are benefited by having a knowledgeable work force. Knowledge comes from education. Is education available to all? Is it possible for everyone to have at least basic school education?

Traditionally, educational privileges were not fully availble to females and the truly working class. It is a well known fact that an educated or well informed mother contributes greatly to the reduction in infant mortality rate than nany other factor. Is our village girl and the mother in village educated enough to serve this purpose?

Is the education making our society scientific? Appreciation and application of science has become a necessary element in the modern life to tackle the problems of increased population and competition. Science and technology are vital to the advancement of the state. How did this field change in these fifty years?

In this fast developing world, education, science, technology, humanities,workplace and every important human affair makes use of computers. Are we catching up with the rest of the world in the use of computers for modernizing the State?

Several epidemics have been eradicated. Thanks to the advancement of science and medicine; But still a hard question to ask is the availability of health-care to the needy section of the population. Are we blindly importing health-care methods developed for rich countries? Even now many people die of preventable diseases such as diarrhea, iodine deficiency, infant mortality, lack of prenatal care etc. Are the current health-care practices boon or menace to the village?

A related health-care issue is the status of physically handicapped and mentally retarded. Did we pay special attention to this special section of the society?

Health of the society, especially a traditional one like ours, with deep roots in the distant past, depends on the preservation and performance of family structure. Has family life been affected due to the political, economical, and cultural changes experienced in these fifty years after independence? How is the family structure in rural Vs urban areas?

Women and children are important but often prejudiced memebers of the past family system. Did the social outlook change radically towards women and children? What is the status of women? Is dowry system still playing havoc? What is the status of our children? Are they still trained to bow to authority and bonded to humility concepts? Are the children of the working class forced to give up education and condemned to child labour in order to make a living for the famlily?

Differences such as rich Vs poor, urban Vs rural, educated Vs uneducated, men Vs women, upper caste Vs lower caste dominated social life for centuries. Differences gave rise to discrimination. Discrimination escalated to injustice. In Independent India, constitution was written to prevail law and Justice. In these five decades, did our system of law work? Is there justice for all? Is there a need for amendments to our Law and Justice System?

Discrimination is bad. At the same time reverse discrimination is also bad. At times we could misuse the “law and justice” to take revenge. Is our reservation policy fair? Does it suppress the right of the “eligible”? Are politicians cashing it for their own gains?
Politics and government are supposed to be the custodians of democracy. Is our politics root cause of all changes (positive and negative) occuring in the society? Did the post independent period promote clean, corruption free, efficient and stable government system?

There are hundreds of honest politicians and government officials. But many more are corrupt. What is the root cause of falling standards of politicians and government officials? Is it just simple greed, stupidity of voters or failure of law and order system? Is it possible to fix the corruption in politics and government and move forward?

If politics and government are corrupt, where did it come from? People. What happened to the ethical standards in the land of Thirukkural? Do we have a system that promotes individual ethics? Do we have a public that votes for ethics?

Every citizen has a right to demand his or her fair share from the government. At the same time every government demands civic responsibility from its subjects. Is there an improvement in our civic sense after fifty years of independent rule?

Attitude towards corruption, ethics, civic sense and common decency are all taught well by education. But where education is hard to reach, religion can play a role. Is our religion confined to traditional practices only? Do we need reforms to impress ethical behavior in everyday life? Do we have to revisit and publicize books of ethics in Tamil language?

What is the status of Tamil Language? We have seen the rise and also hear the fall. Are people in general moving away from learning and speaking Tamil? Or is it only an urban phenomenon? We also know the other extreme- learning professional courses purely in Tamil. Does it have a merit or will it jeopardize the future job opportunities of gullible students?

Tamil has a rich literary heritage. Are we enriching it? Did we produce meritorious literary works in the post-independent period? Are we bringing in new style from other languages to keep our language young and fresh? Are we moving away from the beaten path and take Tamil to new territories like science and technology?

Newspapers and magazines play a key role in the promotion of Tamil and other languages. Are our newspapers newsworthy? Do our magazines have high journalistic standards or only catering to the “appeal”? Newspapers and magazines can serve the democracy by exposing the real issues to the public. How successful are we in these? Are our villages well informed? There are several high quality “small magazines”. Why do they have to be small? Why can’t the popular magazines make even small room for quality?

An in depth analysis of social, political and economic issues is done by detailing them in books. What kind of books being published? What are the popular areas? Do our publishers strive to bring quality books to the readers? Do we have mechanisms to review the new books and inform the potential readers? What can we do to encourage buying of books and thereby increase awareness in several areas of human affairs?

How do we spend our leisure time? The quality of entertainment speaks for the general level of interests, values of an average citizen, attachment to the traditional culture, longing for changes etc. The entertainment media can be effectively used to educate. The media can also help to eradicate certain unwanted social practices. What is the status and progress of various forms of art such as music, dance, drama, cinema, and folklore?

Radio and TV occupies a special place in the entertainment and communication to the public. How do we use this medium? Is the visual medium effectively used to educate villages? Is it used mainly to publicize the ruling parties and provide escapism for people from realities of life?

Finally we need to start looking at some of the new areas to check and promote the quality of products. Consumer awareness is a needed and emerging discipline. What is its status and progress in the state of Tamilnadu.

These are some of the questions we have in mind for some of the important areas that touch everyday life of a citizen. An informed mind can come up with more pertinent questions in each field. The bottom line is that there are thousands of people prospered in post-independent Tamilnadu; but many more thousands are waiting for their turn. We might have made progress in some areas; but we need to assess the current status in these areas for making further improvements. In certain cultural topics, there is a need to preserve our culture; in certain others we have to break the traditions to bring in new life. The twenty first century is around the corner. We have to review the progress of Tamilnadu in order to provide a vision for the next century and to ensure bright future for all Tamils especially to those who have been waiting patiently for too long.

New Jersey Tamil Sangam has initiated a review of topics pertinent to the above questions. The review has been done by professionals and people who are familiar with these topics. We may not find answers to all questions in these reviews but our hope is that at least a brief historical perspective and some of the real issues will come to light. In such a case, it is the business of readers, news-media and resposible citizens of Tamilnadu to focus more on these topics through discussions and debates. Hopefully these discussions and debates will lead to the identification of more important issues in each topic. If the elected officials and the government administration read the writing on the wall and take real interest in solving these issues, then our forefathers didn’t die in vain. The sun will continue to shine on the maturing democracy.

STATISTICS ON TAMILNADU AND OTHER STATES IN INDIA
State Infant Pop.1981 Pop.1991 Annual 1991-92 Literacy Men Women Six yr Six yr % 1-5 yr
Mortality Million Million Population Per Rate % Literacy Literacy olds in olds in children
Rate per Growth % Capita Rate % Rate % School School moderate
1000 NSDP Rural Rural to severe
births Rupees Male% Female % Malnutrion
Uttar Pradesh 123 111 139 2.3 4012 42 56 25 21 10
Orissa 122 26 32 1.8 4068 49 63 35 42 30 72
Madhya
Pradesh 120 52 66 2.4 4077 44 58 29 37 25
Rajasthan 103 34 44 2.5 4361 39 55 20 24 8
Assam 100 18 22 2.2 4230 53 62 43
Bihar 97 70 86 2.1 2904 39 53 23 23 12
Gujarat 91 34 41 1.9 6425 61 73 49 33 24 70
Haryana 89 13 16 2.5 8690 56 69 41
Andhra
Pradesh 82 54 67 2.2 5570 44 55 33 37 25 61
Himachal
Pradesh 79 4 5 1.9 5355 64 75 52
Tamilnadu 74 48 56 1.4 5078 63 74 51 59 50 54
Karnataka 74 37 45 1.9 5555 56 67 44 32 23 66
Jammu &
Kashmir 73 6 8 2.6 4051 33 44 20 27 21
West Bengal 70 55 68 2.2 5383 58 68 47 27 21
Maharastra 68 63 79 2.3 8180 65 77 52 41 31 65
Punjab 62 17 20 1.9 9643 59 66 50
Kerala 28 25 29 1.3 4618 90 94 86 73 73 48
STATISTICS ON INDIA AND OTHER COUNTRIES
State Infant Pop.1981 Pop. 1991 Annual 1988 Literacy Men Women
Mortality Million Million Population Per Capita Rate Literacy Literacy
Rate Per Growth GDP % Rate Rate
1000 % $ % %
births
India 79 683 846 2.2 335 52 64 39
China 35 1131 1.3 301 78 87 68
Mexico 33 70 82 1.6 2102 90 92 88
S. Korea 23 38 43 1.2 4080 93 98 88
U.S.A. 9 227 249 1 19185 96 96 96

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Natarajan Muruganandam

N Muruganandam  has a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering and currently working as a Project Scientist for a Chemical company in New Jersey. He is a life member of New Jersey Tamil Sangam. NJTS has assigned key responsibilities to NM for the formulation and execution of this project.