Archive for October, 2018

World’s Largest Working Democracy – India

October 23, 2018

World’s Largest Working Democracy – India

It is again Election time in India, end of this year 2018. Ideally, these elections for five state assemblies could have been held along with National Parliament elections in April/May 2019. But as there was no consensus on this there was no way to postpone them. Though Indian democratic process has its defects, it has been highly successful in making India as the world’s largest working democracy. In addition, there has been a continuous attempt to make the process more and more meaningful, by implementing a number of improvements in the electoral process. However, many of such improvements are not as effective as expected, because of lack of co-operation from the electors and the elected. Basically five groups of citizens are involved in the Indian electoral process. They are: The Voters, The Candidates, The Political Workers, Election Officials and The Election Commission. Here is an attempt to discuss their roles in the electoral process and also to suggest some ways for them to play their roles positively.

The Voters

Many of the voters do not know exactly the duties and responsibilities of their elected representatives. If they are fully aware of these, they will be more careful in electing them and are likely to take the elections more seriously. The elected person is not just a representative of their constituency; he has got many more important roles to play, such as: elects Speaker of legislative assembly, elects the Chief Minister (and/or Prime Minister) of the state, elects members of Rajya Sabha (Council of States), elects The President and Vice President of the Union of India, presents and discusses the issues and projects of the constituency during Assembly sessions and outside. In addition, he gives a proper feedback to the administration about the public reactions to various government projects. Most of all, all voters should remember they are electing a potential Chief Minister (or Prime Minister). Hence they should ensure their selected candidate is capable of donning all the above roles effectively and be eligible to carry even higher responsibilities should the situations ever demand. Voters should never agree to sell their votes for short term gains such as money and gifts. This leads to competitive gifts from all candidates and further leads to unaffordable increase in election expenses. An honest candidate with normal means can never contest such elections and thus defeating the democracy itself. Even if a candidate attempts to bribe, and forces the voter to accept the same, the voter still has a free choice not to vote for him. Voter need not feel guilty, as it is, the sin is on the part of the candidates who bribe him. Your vote is secret and there is no way for anyone to find out whom you voted. Hence voters should vote without any fear or hesitation, irrespective whether you took, or you are forced to take, any bribe. Voters are the basis for our democracy and votes are their tool for ensuring its success. Somehow Election Commission is not adequately educating the mass of electorate on this aspect of secrecy of their ballots.       

The Candidates

The candidates are usually the worst offenders of the election process. They are known to violate all the election rules. This attitude in them percolates into their term as elected MLAs (or MPs). They eventually become arrogant and corrupt. In this avatar no voter will ever like him and may even regret having voted him. We can be sure that none of the candidates would like to be hated by his voters, if ever they want to be re-elected with ease. What they should do, generally for ensuring greater success of democracy?

It is very important to keep the election expenses to be quite low. All candidates and political parties should abide by the ceiling on election expenses as prescribed by the Election Commission. No candidate should think the election as an investment, which forces her to expect dividends from the same. This process leads to higher and higher corruption in our system. Generally, any candidate should be discouraged to spend too much of his or her own resources for getting elected. Unfortunately the candidate, many times, have to spend his own money, not only for his election, but also for bribing his party for nominating him as a party candidate. It is even rumoured that such candidates are instructed, about how to make his ‘investment’ to pay rich dividends later, by using all available corrupt means. This process can be reversed by: a) making election cheaper, b) State funding, or reimbursing, a part of the election expenses, of at least, the most successful three candidates in each constituency and c) by crowd funding the election expenses from different groups of voters such as rich people, industrialists, and businessmen and by smaller donations from others. By proper budgeting, accounting and planning, election expenses can be reduced a lot.

(Please refer to my earlier blog:  https://lvnaga.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/a-candidates-budget-for-indian-elections/).

A totally avoidable expense is bribes and gifts for voters. It has been proved that competitive bribing of voters does not really help in getting votes.  In future, it is going to be more and more futile as the voters are becoming aware and getting ensured of secrecy of voting. It is possible they will take bribe from all, but vote strictly as per their choice.

Instead of a candidate becoming popular with the party bosses, it pays to be popular with the voters. Even as a party candidate, he will be able to command his candidature better from his Party, by displaying his popularity with the voters, than his wealth. He may not have to bid for his candidature in a dirty ‘auction’. The candidate can even issue their own constituency-specific manifesto in addition to the manifesto of the party. The candidate should avoid and actively discourage any personal attacks on other candidates and eschew totally any violence either during election process or during counting.

Political workers

Political workers are the most exploited lot in the elections. They work so hard day and night in support of the party candidate and get almost nothing in return. They are the worst victims of political violence. They are the ones who face public ire when their candidate fails to perform. They sacrifice their jobs, their earnings and their reputation. Finally they wonder whether whatever they achieved in the end are worth all their efforts and sacrifices. To make their efforts and sacrifices worthwhile, the political workers should be more selective as below:

  • Never support anyone just because he belongs to a particular party
  • Never allow the party to impose anybody as a candidate
  • Never support a criminal as a candidate
  • Support a candidate only if he is able to spend sufficient time in the constituency
  • Support a candidate who is capable of his responsibilities as an MLA (or MP), as mentioned earlier. Never support a ‘rubber stamp’ representative.
  • As a group of political workers, be co-operative never support groupism within.
  • As a group of political workers select, support and recommend a good candidate to the party high command.
  • During non-election period, do not waste too much time on political activities. Do you job or profession and take care of your family and children. Allocate only weekends for your political work. Just two weeks are enough for political work during election campaign
  • If you are a poll agent in any polling booth, refuse to do anything illegal or immoral
  • Do not allow any illegal activity by any other candidate or his workers. Immediately report to election officers.

Election Officers         

Officers who are posted at every polling booth are the most stressed during the election process. The polling officer, in charge of the booth is completely responsible for the free and fare polling. He starts his work very early ahead of the election date:

  • He will get familiar with EVM in all respect
  • He will initialise the EVM for the particular constituency with the names and symbols of the contestants
  • He will test the specific EVM in all respects in the presence of poll agents of all contestants to demonstrate the accuracy of EVM
  • He will pre check the voters list for the constituency
  • He will open and close the polling process at the appropriate times and seal the EVM in the presence of poll agents of all contestants
  • He will guide his assistants to properly identify the voters and then enable them to vote on EVM
  • He will ensure all the voters are marked with indelible ink before voting
  • He will direct the security staff to conduct the election in peaceful orderly manner.

With so much responsibility the officer needs the support of all concerned (i.e.) Voters, Candidates, Party workers and the security. The officer also should take his election assignment seriously and discharge his responsibilities sincerely without fear or favour.

During the counting of votes the election officer-in-charge should keep his calm and strictly follow the procedures as stipulated by the Election Commissioner. The counting should be completed in one go and the result registered immediately after counting without giving rise to any controversy.

Election commissioner

EC is over all in charge of all the above election process and procedures. Chief Election Commissioner is for the whole of India. He, in consultation with State election commissioners schedules elections to the State Assemblies and to the Central Parliament. He also schedules elections for State Legislative councils and for the central Rajya Sabha (or Council of States). He also schedules by-elections wherever necessary. He grants recognition to Political parties, allots symbols for them, and for independent candidates not belonging to any political party. He is the final authority for any electoral disputes. He frames rules of the election procedures, fixes the date of counting and records and announces the results. He gives the certificate of electoral victory to the successful candidate. State election commissioners monitor the whole electoral process in their respective states. He appoints the election officers for every booth in all constituencies. He approves the booth agents and issues them ID cards. He approves the counting representatives for each candidate of the constituency and issues ID cards. He finally announces the results and issues certificate of victory. It is important all the other stake holders including the press and security staff follow all the instructions given by EC.

It is important The Chief Election Commissioner and other State Election Commissioners instil confidence in the minds of voters that elections are indeed conducted in a free and fare manner. By assuring the voters on this aspect, they can then proceed to achieve a target of close to 100% voting. ECs should give maximum publicity to the roles of Voters and others as described here so that they play their roles properly to the extant possible. They should keep on reminding voters the ballot is entirely secret and nobody can find out whom an individual voter has voted. They should issue frequent notices and announcements that, irrespective of any bribe or intimidation, the voters should make their choice totally as per their individual assessment of the candidates and political parties. They should force all the candidates to include such a notice in all their propaganda material such as bit notices, posters and advertisements in the press. The Election commission should find a way to reduce the election expenses within reasonable limits – a) by providing govt sponsored publicity and propaganda, b) by reimbursing a part of election expenses at least for the candidates in the first three places in popular votes and c) by totally preventing and penalising the bribe for votes.

CEC should specifically educate all the above groups of state holders on their responsibilities in the election process especially the Voters and the Candidates, as summarised below:

Voters: a) To take to voting seriously, since their elected representative has many important roles to play in our democracy and hence the candidate should be capable of the same, b) To refuse any inducements, gifts, bribes (or even threats) offered by any of the candidates or his workers, as this is essential to keep the election expenses low and to reduce political corruption c) Not to vote based on caste, creed or religion, to vote based only on capability, d) Secrecy of vote is fully ensured and to keep the same as secret.

Candidates: a) not to spend too much his own money for getting elected to avoid treating it as an investment, b) to crowd source his funds from different sections of people promising them to take care of their fare needs, c) to use a financial expert to budget your election expenses based necessity and utility, d) not to bribe, induce or threaten voters to vote for you, except through promises to work for their basic and fare needs, e) Not to make personal attacks on your opponents and not to encourage violence in any form , f) to prepare a constituency based manifesto in addition to your party manifesto, g) to strive to become popular with the voter than with the Party bosses.

Long Live Indian Democracy

 

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The Quantum World

October 3, 2018

The Quantum World

New Scientist Instant Expert Series, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2017

 

I was first introduced to Quantum Mechanics in 1960s. I did not have any future opportunity to get more familiar with the subject. My interest in this subject was revived recently by two factors:
a) I happen to read a book, titled ‘Biology of belief’ – by Bruce H Lipton, where the author invokes Quantum theory for explaining some of the biological behaviour of cells in our body,
b) I was intrigued by an experience of a Quantum Maths professor of Yale University had with Poojya Sri Kanchi Paramacharya, as reported in the following link.
(https://m.facebook.com/JagadguruSriMahaPeriyava/posts/1652739764815897)
Paramacharya apparently quoted a verse from rig veda, which explains the difference between Positive and Negative approaches to Quantum Theory! (Can someone get the exact text of this verse?)
I started reading this book – The Quantum World (New Scientist Instant Expert Series, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2017) for getting more insight into the processes of Quantum Mechanics. It is still not black and white, like Newtonian Mechanics. It is still sort of grey, with lot of holes in between.
This quantum revolution was started by a German physicist Max Planck in 1900, when he was researching black body radiation. He was led to believe, by his mathematical calculations, that the energy from blackbody was not radiated continuously, but in discrete little packages, which he called as ‘Quanta’. This seed for Quantum mechanics sprouted further by the efforts of Albert Einstein. He was researching photoelectric effect, when he found that, electrons were released from metal by the light of certain frequencies, regardless of its intensity. He proposed in his paper in 1905, that light energy also is made up of stream of little ‘atoms’, he called as ‘photons’. This was supported by the research of Niels Bohr of Denmark. He proposed that in the atoms, electrons are orbiting around the nucleus in several discrete orbits and when they jump between two orbits, light is emitted in discrete packets known as ‘photons’. This was later proved by calculation of energy difference between the two orbits and comparing the same with the energy of the photon emitted. Random nature of wave/packet of light, was further demonstrated by the behaviour of light when it hits the boundary of another medium, like glass. Randomly some photons of light get reflected and some of them get through. It was left to French physicist Louis De Broglie to come out with a revolutionary idea. Building on Einstein’s photon equations, he proposed in 1923, that electron ‘particles’ also behave as ‘waves’, just as, ‘waves’ behave like photon ‘particles’. Soon it was proved to be true, when electrons from helium atom were beamed through a grating (slits), it created interference pattern on the other side, just like waves of light or water. At this point in history, Wave-Particle duality became an accepted reality and Quantum Theory got firmly established.
“The pioneers of Quantum Mechanics were not entirely comfortable with the weirdness they discovered”. Niels Bohr himself was quoted as saying “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it”. As late as in 1958, he is further quoted as saying to another quantum scientist, “we are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is, whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct”
I am not sure whether I have understood ‘enough’ to be ‘sufficiently’ shocked!!! However I found the following narrations very interesting, which I want to share with my readers.
1. This is about how a chlorophyll molecule of a plant leaf behaves as a receptor of energy and transports the same to an action centre where this energy is converted into food and nutrition. Herein we can see how the energy in the form of EM waves in the visible spectrum is converted into a particle which again splits into innumerable number of waves and travels with speeds close to light to the actions centre with minimum loss of energy. The process is described in the book as below:
“The first step in photosynthesis is the capture of a photon of light by an electron of a magnesium atom, of a molecule of chlorophyll pigment. The extra energy causes the electron to vibrate forming a particle called ‘exciton’.”  This should travel to a reaction centre where this light energy will be transformed into chemical energy, thus forming flowers and vegetables. This travel should be fast with least resistance, through the forest of Chlorophyll molecules, in a way that the energy loss is minimal. “Yet measurements show that the exciton transport has the highest efficiency close to 100%”. Further experiments showed that exciton was not taking one particular route; … “it was taking all possible routes to the reaction centre as quantum waves. This was the first direct evidence that, at its heart, photosynthesis is a quantum mechanical process.”
2. Second one is about a bird species of Robin which flies thousands of miles down south to escape harsh winters of northern hemisphere. Its two eyes, when hit with sun’s rays converts them into an electrical dipole of –ve and +ve charges. This bird uses this dipole interaction with earth’s magnetic axis as a compass and gets the direction of forward return flight correctly.
“In 2000 Thorsten Ritz of the University of California came up with the idea that it might depend on a peculiar feature of quantum entanglement. When two entangled particles are electrically charged, they can detect the angle between them, and the earth’s magnetic field. As a test and verification of this theory, this quantum compass was found to get disturbed by high frequency radio waves, as expected.”
Nowadays, we hear many reports, of birds losing their ways, because of their navigation system getting disturbed by radiations from cell phone towers.
3. Third one is about teleporting of matter from one place to another at the speed of light. There are experiments attempted with partial success in which smaller molecules of a matter was converted to waves of energy and recd afar with the speed of light with subsequent re-assembly into matter again.
“Enzymes are the engines of life. They are incredible catalysts that can speed up chemical reactions by a factor of 10²º.” (i.e) 30 billion times the speed of light. “Enzymes gain their huge chemical acceleration by manipulating the quantum mechanical nature of matter, employing a process called quantum tunnelling. This is where a particle can travel through a seemingly impenetrable barrier using its wave properties, essentially dematerialising from one point in space, and materialising in another, without visiting any of the in-between places.”
When I was going through the book, I felt the subject of Quantum Theory is more Metaphysics than Physics. I am sure I am not alone in feeling thus.
Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory, was deeply religious and in 1937 he wrote: ‘Both religion and science need for their activities, the belief in God.’
De Broglie feels ‘Quantum Theory is incomplete; we are lacking some hidden properties and, if we knew them, it would make sense of everything.’
Quantum Theory works well with small particles. Once things get larger they lose their quantum properties. This process is called De-coherence. From this point, Newton’s classical mechanics come into effect. When things get even larger to the level of universe then Einstein’s gravitational principle and his Theory of Relativity takes over.
Interference pattern were observed even with molecules composed of hundreds of atoms, but as they get more massive, this quantum property of superposition get short lived. Is this due to gravitational force taking over?
Quantum Theory rules the atomic scale; Theory of Relativity rules across the cosmos. If physicists can meld both the above theories together, we may hope for the evolution of a ‘Theory of Everything’ that will show how whole universe works at fundamental level.
Till such time several theories are being put forth which is quite intimidating as seen below.
What happened before ‘Big Bang’? Some cosmologists suggest that our universe rose from the ashes of an earlier cosmos which collapsed in a ‘Big Crunch’. For Hindus it may sound like a Pralaya kala or end of a Yuga.
Another take on the implications of quantum mechanics talks of Many-Worlds, into which the universe splits each time you make a measurement of a quantum particle. Our universe itself could be a part of a multitude of universes, some of them arising out of exponential expansion of space-time. The many-world interpretation of quantum mechanics also involves the existence countless universes, parallel to our own, and interacting to generate quantum phenomena.

 

I will end this blog by quoting the following form the book:
“Put simply our concepts Reality, Relativity, Causality, Free-will, Space and Time, all of them cannot be right at the same time. But which ones are wrong?”
“Obtaining a solid theoretical foundation for quantum theory has eluded scientists for more than century. But the above six principles might be all it takes to make sense of it – and lead us to a Theory of Everything.”
Does a ‘Theory of Everything’ already exist in our Hindu Vedas? But even if it exists, who can read it, understand and interpret? Longer it takes less is the possibility.