Saturday, February 9, 2008

Animal Farm


I finished "Animal Farm" by George Orwell in this week. I had read it in my childhood and had also seen the movie, but probably understood the novella in its truest sense this time.A fantastic book and a MUST READ for everyone.

The book is a satire of the Bolshevik revolution that took place in Soviet Russia in 1917 and the events that then folded up. A farm called Manor Farm owned by some Mr. Jones (Tsar of Russia) has many animals who are living in misery and suffering under the monarchy of Mr. Jones. An elderly boar on the farm, the Old Major (resembles Marx as well as Lenin) gives a passionate speech and incites the animals to fight for their freedom. As a result, the "Rebellion" takes place and Jones is driven out of the farm. Two pigs Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin) then unite and lead the other animals. In the course of time, the rivalry and power struggle between these two increases and finally Napoleon captures the power. How does then the beautiful dream of Freedom, Self-governance, Equality and Happiness crashes is better to be read actually from the book than from me. The torment of the Proletariat (the lowest class of citizens) really astounds us. A glimpse of this can be seen from how the commandments that the animal originally decide for themselves are changed to suit the dictatorship of Napoleon.
The Original Seven Commandments
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

Written originally by Snowball, the Seven Commandments were the "unalterable" principles of 'Animalism'. Since not all of the animals can remember them (or read them), they are boiled down into one basic statement: 'Four legs good, two legs bad!' (with wings counting as legs for this purpose).

All of the Seven Commandments are eventually broken by Napoleon and his pigs for their own personal gain. Squealer (Napoleon's media manager) constantly changes the Commandments to the pigs' benefit, taking advantage of the other animals. For example:

  • No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets
  • No animal shall drink alcohol to excess
  • No animal shall kill any other animal without cause
  • All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
In the end, the pigs learn to stand on two legs and regard the four-legged populace as inferiors. They start to wear Mr. Jones' clothes, sleep in beds and drink alcohol. They brutally order the killings of all of the confessing animals who try to oppose the despotism (who are forced to confess to crimes they did not commit)

The Commandments' summation "Four legs good, two legs bad!" is changed to 'Four legs good, two legs better!' as the pigs become more human. Finally they start dealings with those humans whom the animals have been hating all through the course of their revolution. (Socialism kneeling in front of Capitalism may be)

I will definitely say that the allegory is extremely subtle and just too good. Reading the document attached with this mail will give you a detailed overview of the book as well as the real life significance of characters in the story which is very interesting.

I will definitely like to discuss various issues that are raised in the book. Anyone interested, please communicate.

In the end, a must read. Just go for it!!

- Amrut

Sunday, February 3, 2008

How to file an RTI? How I filed an RTI

Currently I am in the process of filing an RTI. I filed for information on 28th Jan. 08. So I should be getting the information latest by 28th Feb 08. That means work is still under progress. As soon as I get the information, I will write another blog on it.

I am the power….

Being a student at IIT for the last 4 years now there have been many occasions where the topic of ‘The authority’ came up. The authority was something that we (student population) just addressed mails to :).. I wonder whether they even read those mails. Besides they were not required to respond to emails. How could I get to know what decisions are being made which are going to affect me and the environment around me? How can I keep a watch on whether things are going on well or not? Thats where RTI starts making a lot of sense.

The basic motivation for doing this is the idea of a change maker. The idea goes something like this.

Do I see something around me that I feel should not happen…. Is there something around me that I would like to change?.... then what am I waiting for…. Wake up and do something about it.

Why RTI?

Around mid of January, many trees were cut behind my hostel. A large part of the IIT campus has good tree cover and these are forest kind of trees. There was just news in the air that a new hostel wing is going to be constructed. However there was no official information transfer to the students about it. Since I do not hold any institute post such as General Secretary I am not in direct contact with people who are responsible for activities such as planning, construction. So I did not have direct access to the correct information. So this was where an act like the RTI is of relevance.

  • Correct, official, reproducible information

Using the RTI I can get the correct information from the official sources. It is the purest version of the information. This information has value because it is in written form and it can be reproduced wherever required.

When I filed for information, through many discussions with friends a point came up that why am I filing for information in this way? Why don’t I just ask our hostel General Secretary, if he does not know then the Hall Manager, further the warden and so on. What I feel is that all these people may have the information but it could be in diluted form. Besides they might not have the correct facts for e.g. the exact number of trees felled. Also none of these downstream people are responsible for the activities and will not give me in writing.

  • Not the last option, its the first option

RTI is not the last option. It is not something we resort to if all other options of talking with relevant authority fail then we file for RTI. It is the first and the easiest option to get information. I feel this paradigm shift is essential so that we will rid ourselves from the fear of filing an RTI.


What came as a big surprise to me was that the process was one of the simplest things I have ever done in life. From the IIT Bombay website, I had already found out who the Public Information Officer in IIT is. Besides the application is addressed to the Information Officer. Its not necessary to know who exactly that person is. All I did was wrote the following letter.



Respected Information Officer,

IIT Bombay,

Powai, Mumbai, 400076.

1 Name of Applicant: Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe

2 Address: Room No. C309, Hostel 13, IIT Bombay, Powai, Mumbai 400076.

3 Required Information and it nature in question form:

1. How many trees have been felled as on 28th Jan 08 and what are their locations?

2. How many more trees are going to be felled in next 1 year?

3. What is the purpose of felling of these trees at the different locations?

4. Is their any plan for planting more trees to compensate for the felling. If yes, where, when? Who is responsible for this? Is any money allocated for this? What type of trees are going to be planted?

5. For the buildings that are being constructed in these places, what steps are taken to make them energy efficient, environment friendly?

6. Who is designing these buildings?

7. Was any alternate solution discussed which would not require felling of trees? If yes, why was that solution not implemented?

8. Has any committee been formed for the above activities? How many members are there and what are their names?

9. Which department is responsible for looking after the trees in IIT Bombay?

10. Whose permission needs to be taken, before felling of trees in IIT Bombay?

11. What is done to the wood after these trees are felled?

12. Give details of the name of officers who have been appointed as information officers and appellant officer as per RTI Act in IIT Bombay.

13. Is there any separate ministerial body under Human Resource Department, which governs IITs? If yes give details.

4 I would like to collect the information in person am I am ready to pay charges for Photocopies of relevant documents, if such information is in documentary form.

Place: Mumbai


Signature of Applicant

Went to the office, asked whom to give the application to and went and gave it. The lady at the table wrote a receipt of 10 Rupees which I paid in cash which is a fee for the process. I had a copy of the application on which she wrote Original Copy and signed it. That’s it!!!!

So all you people out there who feel that filing an RTI will require some complicated forms or help from a lawyer (I had the same impression) etc. that is not the case. Its one of the easiest things to do and anyone of us can do it.

Finally information is our ‘RIGHT’. RTI has empowered us immensely. Who ever thought of this Act was a real genius. If all of us exercised this right, I feel many things around will start changing for the better.

Thanks to Panta (Amit Raut) and Kunal (Surdees friend) for for helping me out and lets see what results out of this !!

For a follow up of the response click here!!