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Let this be the year of right to opinion

india Updated: Jan 02, 2011 00:18 IST
Samit Basu
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A lot of Indians, especially post-Emergency Indians, grew up under the assumption that they lived in a free country where they could speak their minds. Recent years have proved this is not the case. Hopefully 2011 will be the year when Indians start believing once again that they have a right to opinions, and a right to express them.

Hopefully 2011 will be the year when Binayak Sen is freed, when people can speak and write their minds without fear, and banning books and getting upset by films stops becoming the easiest and cheapest way to get on TV.

This should also be a year of compulsory Moral Science and Value Education lessons for People of Power. Since the country’s richest and most influential individuals clearly weren’t paying attention to any kind of ethical guidance either in school or when trying to figure out what their chosen lines of work actually involved doing, clearly simple strategies such as writing ‘I will not lie, cheat or steal’ 200 times before sitting down to the day’s work are the only option left.

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The money generated from the resultant lack of theft could easily be used to educate the rest of the country. Special chapters discussing the ideal differences between a public office and a public urinal, a CEO and a crime-lord, a politician and a pickpocket, a journalist and a megaphone are highly recommended.

On the bright side, this is the year Pakistan is sending out its first space satellite. Nominations are currently being accepted as to who should be on it. Bear in mind that India’s last attempt to send up a satellite ended in spectacular failure.

2011 should be the year when India and Pakistan resolve to settle all future conflicts through battles in outer space and vicious bursts of Facebook poking, and give up this whole cross-border hostility and paranoia thing. Given the number of Indian and Pakistani hands suspected to be behind any sort of horrible incident in the neighbouring country, it’s no wonder the men of the subcontinent have a reputation for groping. On the international front, this is also the year when all American troops are supposed to leave Iraq. Let us hope they remember to set their alarm clocks and are not held up by traffic.

Beyond space missions, it’s also going to be a year of scientific breakthroughs here on earth. Electric cars, results of a malaria vaccine trial in Africa, shock-and-awe virus-bombarding vaccine ingredients called bNabs (broadly neutralising antibodies), laser fusion, the discovery of more adaptation genes, new Large Hadron Collider advancements and most importantly, ways to make any of these breakthroughs decipherable to normal people.

This is also the year when the 24th General Conference on Weights and Measures will take place, and the kilogram will be defined anew. I hope the Conference is great fun; we might all lose some weight in the process.

As you are no doubt already aware, 2011 is the International Year of Forests and the International Year of Chemistry. This has brought joy unbound to forest-dwellers and users of chemicals everywhere. What you probably don’t know is that 2011 is also World Veterinary Year.

Remember how many potatoes you ate in 2008? Correct. Lots. It was the International Year of the Potato. You will, therefore, find yourself visiting vets a lot this year. Try not to be cheap; don’t get them to cure you of your various ailments, there are other doctors for those. Get a pet instead. They are warm and nice.

Also, it is devoutly to be hoped that this is the year when people realise that it’s high time we all started being nice. Not only is the world supposed to end in 2012 anyway, but according to several other notable apocalyptic works of fiction (Aeon Flux, Heroes, Terminator) 2011 is actually the year when the world goes boom owing to various reasons (mystery virus, nuclear explosion, machines taking over) and all of us, barring extremely attractive Hollywood stars, bid our final farewells. So we might as well gain some karmic points while we can, and maybe the end will come before the next Twilight movie does. On that happy note, have a great 2011.

(Samit Basu is the author of Turbulence (Hachette), that came out last year)