Penitence

I met a man upstairs,
a man who wasn’t there,

What I met was a cold heart,
Ripping off and splashing apart,

I was scared for the first time,
To meet the one who I became,

Running down now out of fear,
To a place with no one near,

But to make it worse, to make it bad,
Couldn’t flee from the past I had,

I tried to get rid of my shadow,
In scorching sun and abandoned meadow,

I uttered a few prayers I knew,
Screaming out and calling you,

But all I could do was back down,
Just waiting for the countdown,

Now please tell me a way out son,
How to reconcile the annoyed one?

By Aekansh Mishra

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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

Should we be thinking about a future without currency notes?

Imagine a world where you don’t have to put your faith in the administration hoping it’s a good one. Where you don’t need to trust governments and banks blindly, believing that the mandate of all voters yielded a good set of people. No, this world would not be chaotic and without law, rather a world of order and equity, without power being concentrated in the hands of a few. Wishful thinking? Or is it? Perhaps not.

The first signs of this metamorphosis could be seen last November, as a major cash dependent population, stuck in a limbo brought about by demonetization, sought alternative options to keep lives running. The concept of e-wallets and online transactions spread like wildfire among the masses, as evident in the statistics of companies like PayTM, Oxigen wallet, and banks all over the country. PayTM alone saw the registration of over 14 million new users – a 300% surge in its existing database.

But the problem is that almost all of the payment methods at our disposal are regulated and supervised by the government and banks, institutions that are firmly going downhill in regard to public trust and convenience. The first solution that comes to mind is, why not a decentralized mechanism that allows us to transact quick and easy? Here arises the question, without any regulation or supervision, just how secure/reliable is this system?

In the past few years, many such solutions called cryptocurrencies have come up such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Zcash, and DASH, with Bitcoin being the pioneering as well as currently, the most popular cryptocurrency in the world. It is a peer-to-peer technology that operates without any central authority or bank at the helm. It is in fact controlled by anyone and everyone who uses the currency. The cryptocurrency gets its value the same way a dollar does – depending on the popularity of its usage and simply because a group of users says it does. Also, these currencies are not infinite. Bitcoins, for example, number exactly 21,000,000 across the globe. Bitcoin’s price went up from 216.91 US dollars in 2015 to 697.37 US dollars in 2016 which clearly depicts its growing popularity. While decentralization is the groundbreaking attribute of these cryptocurrencies, the real credit for their security and transparency goes to the Blockchain; the technology that can revolutionize the future.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a Blockchain is a public, ever-growing digital ledger consisting of information regarding transactions stored in blocks. Each data block is virtually connected to the others in the chain and each of these blocks is made uberly-secure by a fingerprint as unique as our own – a timestamp. This very feature solved the double-spend problem in online transactions, where having or generating a duplicate receipt for a transaction was a big issue. The double-spend problem was responsible for a cumulative loss of over 70,000 US dollars due to glitches causing the users to be notified twice for every payment.

The idea at the very core of the Blockchain technology is to promote highly secure, transparent and convenient digital, bilateral transactions that would have no need to be validated, regulated or protected by any third party, bank or government authority. The only parties responsible would be the transacting parties and the only threat to the security of this contract would depend on how well the concerned persons can maintain the privacy of the information regarding their virtual currency.

The blockchain in itself, by virtue of being a public ledger, stored and accessed on multiple servers across the world, cannot be corrupted by any simple means. To do so, would require the attacker to simultaneously assume control of each and every server linked to the blockchain which is indeed a Herculean task; theoretically possible but practically not.

For example, a customer purchasing a music record may doubt that a record label has received its payment and not keep its side of the bargain by denying to send the customer his desired song. Meanwhile, the record label might doubt that the customer will receive the song first and choose not pay for it. In such cases, the blockchain code protects both parties and ensures both ends of the transaction are executed. Similarly, a blockchain configured for anonymity would prove to be a boon for purposes such as voting as it would ensure the integrity of the votes coming in as well as the vote count because the count would be easily reviewable and stored in multiple locations that would serve as a countermeasure against tampering of any kind.

Looking at the future now onwards, going cashless and saving all the paper does seem preferable but just when can all governments authorize and acknowledge blockchain empowered cryptocurrencies, which do not hail them at the top of the pyramid? While some countries like Vanuatu, a South Pacific island nation, have started accepting Bitcoins in transactions, there are still many road bumps on the path to a global cashless scenario. However, even amidst all these questions, one thing is for sure, gone are the days when the feel of a crisp currency note was one of the best things in the world.

 By: Tanmay Aggarwal and Ananya Bal

WARRIOR IN MAKING…

And the trumpets called, on occasion of his leave,
when eyes got watery, while he drew up his sleeve,
he was ready to enter the world of war,
dumping every relation except patriotism, by far.

Well aware of what he was leaving aside,
he married his armour, all regrets aside.
Loving his land first, was his duty,
to leave all bonds aside, he needed to be gutsy.

It was never his alone, to act,
with me as well, he shared a pact.
I would readily survive the call of his life,
believing he would be proud with his strife.

I promised myself never to burden him,
to live in my eyes his very dreams,
and always give my hand for him to fly,
his only home, his stage was the sky.

What I desire for him are cheers and prize,
and with my wishes alone, I hope you rise,
because you are no more a person there,
but a warrior raising his warfare.

By Sakshi Ragini

The Right of The Wronged

It is easy for us to determine the value of commodities, products and even services, but how easy would it be for us to understand and establish the value of time itself? Is time quantifiable in terms of anything? Time is something that once taken, cannot be returned, which makes it infinitely hard to compensate for wasted time. What I’m really getting at here is the fact that when a court wrongly convicts a person to spend a large portion of their life in jail, and later, when this claim is finally proved to be wrong (if it ever is), how on earth can we compensate for all the valuable time that this person has spent inside a jail? This now becomes a very special case because not only do we have to compensate for the lost time, but also the tarnished reputation that came along with the fact that the person was in jail for a heinous crime. The damage that is done unto these exonerated people is not just physical but also emotional. Spending days in prison, being shamed and humiliated, all the while knowing that you haven’t even committed the crime has the most horrible mental implications. Can money or any other commodity ever be enough to repair this kind of?

 The simple answer is no. But we might as well try to come as close as we can. They deserve the monetary compensation that they expect. The state has a responsibility to fix this. Just like they have a responsibility to find a person guilty of a crime. Deprived for years of family and friends, and the ability to establish oneself on a professional front, the nightmare of imprisonment does not end upon being given freedom. In most cases, these people are left with no money, housing, transportation, health services or insurance. What is even worse is that their criminal records are barely cleared despite proven innocent. Needless to say, the punishment lingers long after innocence has been proven because the person’s ability to exist in that freedom no longer exists.

However, what really happens in the world will leave you quite shocked. Most people take it as a given that a person being exonerated will receive a good amount of money but this does not always happen. Not many countries offer the compensation that is expected after they release a person who had been wrongfully convicted and that is extremely unfair. In the US, state laws governing compensation for wrongfully convicted people vary to a very large extent. While some states are understanding of this folly and offer a good amount of compensation for the exonerated, at least 20 offer nothing. And even for those that do, some of them are just namesake. “Conceding that no system is perfect, the government’s public recognition of the harm inflicted upon a wrongfully convicted person helps to foster his/her healing process, while assuring the public that the government – regardless of fault – is willing to take ownership of its wrongs or errors.” says the former mayor of Houston.

The compensations offered by certain countries around the world, for wrongful convictions, are as follows:

  • India: Yes, Bharat Desh is truly Mahaan because in refusing to compensate for people who were incarcerated on false charges, the Indian judiciary displays a worrying lack of responsibility. Our judiciary gives back only freedom because apparently, that is all that they took in the first place, didn’t they? Though Indian judges do have the ability to compensate on a case by case basis taking into account several factors like period of imprisonment, the severity of convicted crime etc, we rarely see it happening and that is extremely disturbing.
  • Spain: The Constitution of Spain guarantees compensation in cases of miscarriage of justice but does not specify an amount.
  • United Kingdom: In the UK a jailed person, who is exonerated, may be paid compensation for the time they were incarcerated. This is currently limited by statute to a maximum sum of £500,000.
  • Germany: The Law on Compensation for Criminal Prosecution Proceedings, 1971, specifies that whoever has suffered damage as a result of a criminal conviction, which is later quashed or lessened the applicant shall be compensated by the State.

Syed Wasif Haider says he was arrested by policemen on July 31, 2001, from Kanpur. He was told he faced charges ranging from sedition to rioting and murder and was accused of being a member of the terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen. After languishing in prison for eight years, he was finally acquitted of all the charges in court. But life outside jail was not as he expected. “I might be a free man now but I feel I am in a bigger jail now. Even after seven years of acquittal, I am as isolated as I was in jail.” Haider who is now in his mid-40s tells us, “Today, I am a jobless man. No one is ready to give me a job because of my past. I can’t start my business because no one wants to deal with a ‘terrorist’, no matter I was honourably acquitted by the court.” Even after years of his acquittal, he is nowhere near the old life he used to lead.

These cases are not isolated. There are a lot of cases of wrongful convictions. On January 15, 1994, Mohammad Nisarudin, 19 at the time, was at home in Karnataka. But that day, the police knocked at the door of his parents’ home and took him away in handcuffs. Initially, the police booked him for a bomb blast that had taken place in October 1993 in a Muslim educational institute in Hyderabad, then he was booked in a few unsolved bomb blasts that had taken place and the court convicted him for a lifetime imprisonment. After Mr Nisarudin spent 23 miserable years in prison labelled as a terrorist, the Supreme Court finally acquitted him of all charges and set aside his life sentence. When asked whether he was to be compensated for his loss from the State, Nasirudin angrily responded: “How can I be compensated for all the years I have lost? Will  I ever be redeemed in any manner?” And that is true. However, the monetary compensation that could have been given to him so that he does not lead a poverty-stricken life, was also absent. How do we allow such indiscretions to happen in our country? Is this really justice?

I hope that we can try to overcome these shortcomings and loopholes in our system because what use is a judicial system, which forces other people to admit their crimes if it can’t even admit its own shortcomings by offering adequate compensation that could change the lives of those exonerated.

UPDATE: As of today, Aarushi Talwar’s parents have been acquitted of charges of murdering their own daughter. Do you think their case warrants compensation? If yes, then let’s find out if they get any.

By: Japneet Kaur Saluja

 

Absolution

Warped my mind, webbed in chaos
wandering horizons unknown,
enveloped in terror, engulfed in fears-
overcome by grief, overcome by tears.

They shred me into pieces
thanklessly digging into my flaws,
unyielding, into my darkest reaches-
in woeful blood stained their claws.

Veins trembling with sin,
love unrequited, love unclean;
Lost I family, lost I friends,
clumsily clung to my wit’s ends.

Absolution, oh absolution!
walk me down your alley,
spark my arc of redemption,
salvage me apart, set me free!-

Free of souls who once lit my eyes,
souls I’d cherish as time flies,
frozen their laughter, frozen their cries-
evermore trapped beneath my lies.

Melted I away, dismal their absence,
rusted my soul, drowned in isolation;
Marked I mercy, profound her presence-
there she was, love’s very own essence.

For she set free my heart,
set free his guilt, set free his voice-
His songs never the more unheard,
free flew his wings in regal rejoice!

Absolution, oh absolution!
unto forever, I beg thee-
thus ends my road to redemption,
salvation all around, finally set free!

By Prajesh Dey

BENIGN LOVE

I pulled out the pin
And looked at the brown locks unfurl.
They brushed against the waist
Of a rough, hoydenish girl.

She loathed long hair
And all the rituals it entailed;
Yet for months now,
She’d let her hair grow unrestrained.

She had coarse hair
Unlike her beloved younger sister.
But fate was acrid,
And had its poisoned lips kiss her.

Sickness that slowly gnaws
And medication that messes
Had taken away from the younger,
Her soft and shiny tresses.

Her former glossy mane
Is all she wants for her last birthday.
I can’t give her back hers
But I’ll let mine brighten her day.

-Ananya Bal

 

Hush hush, little girl

Hush hush little girl,
He used to tell me,
So that I don’t yell,
And none could see.

Everytime I saw him coming,
my heart would thump,
For I couldn’t bear the pain,
And the fact that he is my father.

He made me lie on the bed,
And unbuckled his belt,
I was scared to imagine,
about what will happen next.

Each and every grip only got worse,
he not only hit but also curse,
I tried getting away from his hold,
but only to fail same as before.

How I wish I told  mommy,
who would always be there to nurse me,
But God even snatched away that moment,
‘Cause even she needs some rest.

Years passed by now,
but the marks still fresh,
how will I ever tell it out,
When the fear still overpowers me.

-Meghana Gudivada

Why we need Sex Education

“In my days we didn’t have sex education, we just picked up what we could from the television”, said the famous comedian and actress Victoria Wood. Though she is not with us anymore, her words resonate with me and the people I live with more than ever, especially in the case of Indian society. The reason why I am trying to focus on this topic is due to the fact that I connect so much with the aforementioned quote. Also, I believe that picking up things from the television is not the best way to obtain knowledge and that’s where I believe sex education plays a very important role in a child’s growth.

For those who are not familiar with the term, ‘sex education’ is high quality teaching and learning about a broad variety of topics related to sex and sexuality, exploring values and beliefs about those topics and gaining the skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage one’s own sexual health. Sounds about right, right? See this is what I discerned when I grew up, when I was done with my teenage years, after I had gone through all the mistakes and the states of bewilderment. And this is not just me, you would find this common amongst millions of teenagers that live in this country.

It’s a shame that we are living in the 21st century and still not teaching our kids about the most important process that leads to continuation of the human race. Everyone’s going to do it in the future, it happens in our homes almost everyday, next to our rooms. People don’t get the fact that not talking about this to their children is only creating problems for their own kids. I mean, what kind of thinking do these people possess? They want to leave their kids in the hands of dangerous misinformation just because it’s comfortable to stay quiet? Kids are going to try to find out about it because they are human beings and then, they will resort to the internet or their friends which will further aid in the perpetuation of sex myths and rumours.

Talking about sex is not taboo. With the highest population growth rate in the world, we as Indians are facing a crisis right now. We are in the utmost need of sex education in our country. We have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world and the highest numbers in sexual abuse of kids. 53% of kids in between the age of 5-12 have been subjected to sexual abuse, 50% of the girls in rural India are not aware of what menstruation is. If that’s not shocking, what is? Oh I know what’s more shocking – the fact that we don’t have sex education in our school curriculum. Teaching kids about safe sexual practices and contraceptives would not ruin and debilitate our belief in the so called ‘Indian Culture’ and won’t lead to them having more or less sex for that matter. Informing them about homosexuality won’t make them homosexual. And I think our politicians are to blame because it’s them who make ostentatious promises just to gain votes. And then are the people that we live with- our own parents and elders. Aren’t they supposed to teach us that sleeping next to each other doesn’t end up getting you pregnant?

Half cooked facts can be dangerous, whether in the case of sex or any other topic and the best way to prevent propagation of misinformation is to educate in a proper manner.

By Nripendra Mishra