a cure for that madness

“She is spending Rs 1000 crore on establishing statues of elephants and herself. Can there be something more shameful than this in Indian politics,” he asked.

“Of what use will be the statues in UP. The Rs 1000 crore could have helped wipe out poverty of thousands of people, provide basic amenities and education,” he said, addressing a meeting to thank voters of his constituency Sivaganga last night.

this from the leader of a party which has named universities, museums, planetariums, zoos, sanctuaries, sanatoriums, hospitals, art galleries, theatres, dams, power projects, schools, colleges, awards, streets, highways, bridges, poverty alleviation schemes, employment schemes, farmer support schemes, housing schemes, health schemes, loan schemes, airports, railway stations, bus stations, sanitation schemes, social security schemes, industrial townships, parks, elephants and tigers and other faunae, educational scholarships and fellowships, research grants, stadia, gyms, traffic junctions, office buildings etc after members of one family. with public money. apart from encouraging all kinds of congressmen, once-congressmen, also-congressmen, never-congressmen and all kinds of other slobbering enthusiasts to further spread the disease across the land, christening every kind of recognizable public nook, cranny and wilderness in the country after members of the same family.. pockmarking it with likenesses in stone, cement, plaster, metal..of that holy trinity. with money mostly stolen from the public.

i might not agree with mayawati's method, but she is desperately trying to find a cure for that madness, which is itself a new variant of an ancient plague, i think.


does kapil sibal pat his kids through the internet? or does he need private partners to do it?

using the internet to improve access to education in villages. what an idea sirjee!

look at the problems. for instance, the minister or his boss can't go to lalgarh without a few hundred soldiers going in first, before them. and there are over 200 such districts across the country. so the internet is the safest way to travel in india these days. or teach.

cynics would say: if in the last sixty years, more teachers had travelled to those villages- would the army be there now?

what was the minister for education trying to do on television today? making an admission that the government of india has given up on the people of india. thrown in the towel. we're inviting any and every kind of entrepreneur (or snake oil salesman or rural warlord or dotcom veteran or religious warrior) to become the indian state's private partner in... . education? do whatever, but come tell us you're doing education in the villages and hand in your vouchers etc and collect your money. we want to forget about the whole business, okay?

we're done with it. we've many more revolutions to cook- many new universities and elite institutions to set up, more loans to give away to rich kids, more regulating of higher education to be done. so many new tasks for babus and so much new business for corporate india. and it isn't going to be all fun, i promise you. schools are no longer our business.

in a few more years, hopefully, another 200 districts in the country would also be accessible only through the net. and we'll expand education in those parts too.

when it comes to schools, who's the bigger prophet of the free market: milton friedman or the government of india? in my view, that isn't really a tough question to answer.



what's more disgusting than the state of government schools? school vouchers. what's more disgusting than vouchers? iits. what's more disgusting than iits? that i should also pay for air india (never mind if i haven't ever seen the inside of a plane). what's even more disgusting than that? that i also pay for the salaries of certain dons in jnu who think i belong in the middle ages.

why can't they let the bjp die?

why are so many journalists worried about what's happening in the bjp?

vrinda gopinath tells you everything you wanted to know that’s happening in the party. barkha dutt asks: Will the right find its centre again? ashok malik in the hindustan times says: the transformation in the BJP has to be both ideational and generational (what does that mean, i wonder).

actually, i seem to have come rather late to this bjp bachao party in the media- a lot more seems to have been written on the subject since elections. one does expect openly hindutvavadi journalists in the media to shed a lot of bitter tears, but why are the so-called secularists so interested in its survival as to offer tips and advice? some have even hinted that the country needs the right (by which they mean the bjp) just as it needs the left (the communists, of course) to keep the centre (the congress) on its toes. why?

because they're talking about their country (or nation)- the one that's shining or is singing jai ho! they wouldn't want any regional or other casteist parties to lay any claim on the centre, take control of the hidden state. all the three national political formations share a somewhat common vision of the indian nation- its social boundaries are defined by the upper and intermediate castes, its economic boundaries by the organized sector, the professional middle classes (again mostly from the same castes) and a section of the prosperous farmers, industrialists and businessmen. in the interested eyes of the international business and finance community, they're the indian market. not big, in terms of per capita expenditure, by the standards of developed countries, but definitely much more stable (because the state supports their incomes, in many ways, directly and indirectly). and their incomes might look small, in dollar terms, but how many government clerks or even doctors or lawyers or factory foremen in the west can afford cheap domestic help, for instance? their privileges can't be measured, and the workers in the informal economy (representing all those divisive aspirations which need to be kept out), who pay for them can't really refuse to oblige- there are just too many of them ever willing to be suckered.

so it makes sense for the national media to talk about their parties- and about the need for diversity and balance (as represented by the right, left and centre of their politics) in their democracy. why should they not worry about a member of their parivar slipping behind?


mamata shall outdo laloo?

Malda, May 24: Expectations are running high in Malda with Mamata Banerjee taking charge of Rail Bhavan.

From newly elected Congress MP Mausam Noor to the merchant chamber of commerce — everybody has drawn up a list of demands for Mamata, especially since the Trinamul Congress chief is known to have shared a rapport with A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury.

Mausam, Ghani Khan’s niece, will demand a Rajdhani from “Mamatadi”, a pair of superfast trains between Calcutta and Siliguri via Malda, besides introduction of electric trains in the division. “I am very happy that Mamatadi has become the railway minister. The neglected Malda division will definitely get a better deal. We want a Rajdhani and a pair of superfast trains, connecting Siliguri to Calcutta via Malda. We also want electric trains,” she said. In Malda division, trains run on diesel.

in the eighties, when ghani khan chowdhury was the minister for railways, wags in the press used to remark that the name 'indian railways' was a misnomer, because all the action seemed to happen in malda and and bengal. in the nineties, jaffer sharief, ram vilas paswan, nitish kumar and laloo yadav- all tried to follow his outstanding example of never looking beyond one's own family, village, district and state while ruling the railways.

now, it looks like mamata banerjee plans to outdo all of them- flagging off new trains in her home state just a couple of weeks after assuming office, promising relief to supporters and even checking the menus on trains to see that they're bengali enough. does one have to wait for the railway budget to realize that there'd be nothing in it for people living beyond mamata's fiefdom?

the railways is just one large business among many that the central government in delhi owns- i wouldn't say manages, governs etc., because that'd indicate an objective, professional approach to managing the affairs of those businesses. the people who seek and are offered these top posts run, and are allowed to run, these businesses like shopkeepers who are given charge of their rivals' businesses, temporarily. they run down these business in the process of running them for their own special interests- the larger public interest be damned.

one reason, actually two reasons, why no national party wants the government to withdraw from these businesses and get down to the serious business of governance is that these businesses help ruling parties to 1) build and foster patronage networks across states and 2) make a lot of money.

if public sector businesses are one way of achieving those two objectives, ministries that oversee and regulate industries are another, more subtle and unobtrusive way. why do so many contenders for ministerial posts want information technology and communications, chemicals and steel, petroleum and surface transport etc?

and why does no one want women and child welfare etc? or education without higher education? if control over the health ministry didn't mean control over large government hospitals like aiims, or over countless corporate hospitals and colleges- who'd want it?


indian institutions of dissembling

In a presentation to the IIM-B Board of Governors (BoG), Dean (Administration) Prof B Mahadevan said that the funds were necessary for “strengthening research activities, enlarging the scale of internationalisation and for enhancing support to students.” The presentation also made it clear that the government, despite committing Rs 30 crore towards other backward caste expansion plans, could not be looked into for funding.So far, the government has released only Rs 10.67 crore to IIM-B towards this cause.
Rs.30 crores for other backward caste expansion plans? the funds were promised because the number of seats were to be increased. and the seats were increased because the government didn't want any reduction in the general category seats because of increase in reserved seats. so the expansion was to accommodate the general category seats- where do the backward caste students come into the budgeting picture?

if the increase in budget was to be apportioned, by any truthful accounting norms, only a small portion of it could be pinned on the obc students (the increase in overall number of seats would mean that a few of them would also benefit from it) because most of it would go towards ensuring that the same number of general category students, as earlier, would get admitted.

unless the government of india and the iim-b believe the obcs are foreign nationals from, say, pakistan, and are being admitted as a part of a confidence building measure to improve relations betwen the two countries. and because indian nationals cannot be deprived of their seats, the overall capacity of the institution is being increased, and hence the increase in budget.

this isn't the first time- the media has consistently tried to play this ugly game of reminding the people of the costs of the government's reluctant positive discrimination projects. if the obcs, as the media seems to suggest, should foot the bill for the increase in seats, who were paying for all the seats until now? the people of india or only the members of certain meritorious castes?

or, are only members of certain
meritorious castes the people of india?

finally, what do these budget-increasing-students expect to learn at these places where the teachers spout such half-truths and lies? if they haven't already learned the one valuable lesson that's already being repeatedly taught, through the media, even before they enter these institutions: that they're not wanted, are a burden? that their citizenship is provisional, at best?

shame on the obcs. shame on the obcs for not realizing that these are the kind of institutions that keep them obcs.


merit without antecedents

So I try not to get angry when they ask me for my antecedents, though I still stick with the “I don’t know.” And when others flaunt their identities based on anything but their merit, I still squirm but let it be.
shobhana bhartia. samir and vineet jain. n.ram and n.murali. vivek and saroj goenka. t.venkatram reddy and....

there's so much merit in the media.


not so modern

Call it the meltdown effect. The fear of unemployment is forcing even educated, upper caste and dominant backward caste youth to take up these secure, but menial, jobs.
even educated, upper caste and dominant backward caste youth are taking up these menial jobs? find some educated, upper caste and dominant backward caste youth among these contract labourers.

while the media makes concerted efforts to play down the role of caste in allocating misery by playing up the role of class in distributing merit (if only the rich among the lower castes and the upper castes make the cut, why build institutions which favour only the rich?)- i wonder if the editors of these national rags ever bother to check what proportion of upper caste youth work in the insecure, unorganized sector.

2,800 rupees a month if the contractor sticks to the rules (which 90% of them don't), no paid leaves or holidays, no pensions or social security, and no.... weighed against 7,000 rupees a month and more and all the benefits (holidays, breaks, pensions, social security etc) plus the always available option of not working and still enjoying all those benefits or also working on a second job or a business (check the findings of this field study on benami sweepers) and still enjoying all those benefits- even the most broadminded of editors should understand the difference between those two career options.

a fact which neither the capitalist mouthpieces like the times of india and hindustan times nor socialist trash dispensers like the hindu will ever acknowledge: the modern indian state is not so modern in distributing security. or filth.


the badlands

"There's such a big difference between life in New Delhi and life in the Chambal Valley ravines. There are two codes, two sets of mores, customs, and legalities. In New Delhi people are so much more duplicitous: they promise you things, and then behind your back they do precisely the opposite. In Chambal they'll say things openly, they'll shout it from the rooftops, and then they'll follow through. City life is very different; you have law courts. But out in the valley you can do things your way, and by the will of God."
phoolan devi, who escaped the chambal valley to die in delhi. and he survived kargil, only to die in delhi. an old story and a new one, picked randomly at the end of a lousy day and they seem to convey the same ominous message.

and this guy thinks india trusts delhi. just as many senile commentators in the media- if this was a vote against regionalism, why did the two national parties together poll 2% less votes than in 2004?

somebody tell these guys, democracy starts in the states and a fat delhi means more chambals.


the rigid flexibility of caste

"Earlier, people were changing their religion but now people are changing their castes also", said a vacation bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Deepak Verma. [italics mine]
note what the judges said: now people are changing their castes also. what does the headline say? SC surprised at people changing castes frequently.

judges find people, not a person or two, can change caste. progressive reporter notes, without surprise, people change caste frequently. what the judges or reporter didn't say explicitly: we always knew people from the lower castes were great whiners.

elsewhere, a story on some rigid dalit believers in caste who would rather change their religion than their caste, frequently.

baap ka raj

The argument being made against quotas for Muslims is that they will create resentment and generate a backlash. This is a weighty argument and it is almost certainly true, although it is unlikely that the victims of the backlash will be the same as the beneficiaries of quotas. Quotas by their very nature directly benefit only a few individuals and their extended families. Does that not create resentment among the hapless many against the resourceful few who have learnt to manipulate the regime of quotas to their own advantage?
not going into details of what the baap of all quota opponents has to say on the merits of reservations and affirmative action etc in general, and reservations for women in particular, because those are strictly arguments for those among the brahminized classes who either support or oppose quotas, i'd like you to look at the premises from which he speaks:
* this is our baap ka raj- we discuss and decide whether you get a quota or not.
* though we're fewer in number, a minority, our resentment is always the resentment of the 'hapless many' (read: the real majority) because this is our baap ka raj.
* we do not like the 'manipulators' among you who succeed in using the 'regime of quotas' to their advantage to get into our raj- we know they're manipulators because everyone knows you're totally without merit. if you want to gain entry into our baap ka raj, you'll have to learn to behave.

and going further, exploring a little what learning to behave means:
* our baap ka raj essentially looks after the interests of our baap's children, us. your interests don't count, so remember that, always.
* in our baap ka raj, we set the agenda, obviously. when we say 'iits', you don't say 'common schools'. when we say 'security', you don't say 'justice'. when we say 'infrastructure', you don't say 'drinking water'. and so on.
* this being a democracy, unfortunately, we've to speak for us and you. but remember, this is our baap ka raj, so your rights don't count. if you can give up the filthy practice of caste, all of you will prosper just as all the castes among us have.


the grain of the patels

In 2000, the Rich List database threw up the interesting idea that you're seven times more likely to be a millionaire if you're called Patel than if you're called Smith. Which may be one reason they like to stick together.
patel, till death do us part.

those without caste

So it was with villains. You could name the moll Lily or Rosy, you could name the henchman Robert, but where would your villain come from? It is no accident that many powerful villains have had no Indian caste identity at all. We do know where Gabbar Singh came from – we even know that his father’s name was Hari Singh – but we have no idea where Dr Dang (Karma, 1986, dr Subhash Ghai) came from or Shakaal (Shaan, 1980, dr Ramesh Sippy) or Loin (Kalicharan, 1976, dr Subhash Ghai) or Mogambo (Mr India, 1987, dr Shekhar Kapur) for that matter. They were villains who were free-floating signifiers. Dr Dang could be Chinese if you wanted him to be Chinese. He could be South-east Asian or even from a tribal belt in India. It did not matter because he could not be located and so could not become an insult to any community. Henchmen were also given ur-names: Jagga, Raaka, Kaalia, Saamba.
jerry pinto on minorities and bollywood. but do we really know where gabbar singh came from?


gail omvedt

for no particular reason, excerpts from some essays by gail omvedt that i had always liked:
However, one of the most important sociologists on caste, Louis Dumont, comes out of the Durkheimian school with its emphasis on the role of religion and values as binding and defining forces in society. Dumont's major work, Homo Hierarchus, takes caste in India as a unique system, intimately connected with Hinduism. He views it as the supreme example in the world of the recognition of hierarchy as a fact of social life, and in its shifting levels and logics of purity/pollution, encompassing/encompassed, the extreme purity of the Brahmans at the top requires as its antithesis the extreme pollution of the Untouchable at the bottom. In insisting on this core role of Hinduism in defining caste, Dumont in fact has much in common with Ambedkar.

It also has to be noted that in spite of his insistence on the uniqueness of caste in India, in spite of his refutations of those sociologists who attempted to analyse ``caste'' and ``race'' as inherently similar stratification systems, Durkheim does have much to say on their comparability, and as a sociologist he accepts comparison as a crucial goal. ``Racism represents a contradictory resurgence in egalitarian society of what finds direct expression as hierarchy in caste society,'' he writes (Homo Hierarchus, p. 214). In other words, caste is justified by the inherent values of Indian society; racial discrimination, in contrast, is against modern values of equality of all human beings and so is justified by assuming the oppressed are not quite human. It is an important insight, shared by almost all sociologists. Even anthropologists such as Gerald Berreman, who analyse caste and racial systems as similar, mention this point of legitimation as a distinguishing feature.
from Caste, race and sociologists- 1.
However, Indians may well ask: what is after all the relevance of these studies of caste in pre-British or ``traditional'' India? Hasn't it changed significantly today? Weber, Marx, Dumont also, of course, believed that caste was changing, with Marx taking the strongest position that it would crumble under the impact of industrialisation. Dumont, however, also emphasised change and even gave a theorisation of it: in modern India, caste was becoming ``substantialised'', that is, caste groups were organising as large blocs - for instance, all the Yadavas in a given State, or an even wider territory - mobilising to confront other large caste blocs. Dumont argued that such a transformation of caste into ethnic- like groups represented a fundamental shift from hierarchy, a change in the system itself.

But how fundamental is it? The idea of the innumerable jatis in hierarchies being transformed into ethnic-like blocs seems to fit much experience (the caste-based ``voting blocs'' of politics), but are these really competing on a non-hierarchical basis? Have these larger caste blocs (Yadavas as a group, Brahmans as a group, Pariahs as a group, etc.) really changed their places in a hierarchy, or moved into a position sufficient to say that a hierarchy no longer exists? Or is there still a broad correlation between economic position and caste status? Is inter-marriage occurring at a significant enough rate to really transform the system? Have the equalitarian policies of the Indian state - as Srinivas and Beteille argued over 30 years ago for the prestigious journal Scientific American - joined with the forces of industrialisation wrought a fundamental change in caste traditions? Or are Dalits right in claiming that their oppression and exploitation is as bitter as ever?
from Caste, race and sociologists- 2.
The purpose here is certainly not to celebrate capitalism, and the new forms of wage slavery replacing the old. But nor is it to demonise them or suggest that the process can or should be avoided. It is to recognise what was new and transformative in capitalist relations of production. Marx's view of capitalism was not so simple as that propagated by some of his followers in India. He never saw it as an unmitigated evil, to be resisted at all costs. Indeed, if it came to a choice between capitalism and feudalism, or between advanced and backward capitalism, there is no question where he stood. Marx was a proponent not of maintaining old forms of production, whether idealised feudal villages or ``subsistence'' production; he was unalterably an Enlightenment proponent of that much-scorned word, ``progress'' - or what we today call ``development''. He saw it with open eyes, as costly, often destructive, but he hailed the creativeness in this destruction.

Behind this lay his view of the human being as a creature of tremendous potential development, a creator of productive forces and intellectual achievements. History itself, with all its tumult, unevenness, exploitation and even misery, was basically a process of increasing these capacities. The famous ``growth of the productive forces'' which to him lay at the basis of change, was in fact the growth of the forces of human beings itself; technology represented human capacities. Capitalism was the final stage of class society and laid the basis for socialism in two ways - first by creating the productive forces, the technology that could produce a truly wealthy existence, and second by creating the human beings, the ``proletariat'', who could manage this technology. The very term ``destructive'' in Marx often carries a revolutionary connotation, destructive of the confining, narrow, stagnation of backwardness. Capitalism was thus a necessary stage through which humanity must pass, to be undertaken as rapidly as possible and with as little cost as possible.
from Marx and globalisation.
In reality, the choice between mindless developmentalism and eco- romanticism is a false one. The alternatives are meaningless by themselves. The government-promoted irrigation projects are highly centralised not only in production but also in distribution: they tend to concentrate the water provided in privileged areas that would become green islands of development in an ongoing sea of drought. The rainwater harvesting schemes, on the other hand, in spite of their value, are insufficient by themselves in areas of really low rainfall - and there is also the danger that effective water-harvesting in areas of higher elevation can cut off water to rivers which might otherwise carry it to lower areas. Both extremes take apparently opposite attitudes towards the state, yet there is a commonality - one would simply let the state go on building irrigation projects as its experts have decided, and the other would have the state do nothing at all and give all responsibility to the localities. Neither involves a project of people joining together from diverse backgrounds and over a wide area to try to influence state policy, formulating and struggling for an alternative plan.

Such an effort, though, is being made in the Krishna basin districts of southern Maharashtra. Here, using experience from such struggles as that for the Bali Raja dam and the Takari scheme, and building as well on movements of dam evictees, a new alternative which seeks to provide a ``walk on two legs'' solution to drought is coming up.
from Drought-proofing.
Ravidas had written:

"The regal realm with the sorrowless name
they call it Queen City, a place with no pain,
no taxes or cares, none owns property there,
no wrongdoing, worry, terror, or torture.
Oh my brother, I've come to take it as my own,
my distant home, where everything is right.
They do this or that, they walk where they wish,
they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged.
Oh, says Ravidas, a tanner now set free,
those who walk beside me are my friends."

This expressed both "class" and "caste" utopias — no taxes or property, and the right of even the lowest toilers to walk freely everywhere, so important for those classified as Untouchables and relegated to live and work away from the main areas of a city. Within the context of a Brahman-dominated medieval order, this was a dream. The coming of a new industrial society and the rise of science and technology should have made possible a life of prosperity for allsuch bold dreams could have shaped a new national society in India. But this did not happen. Industrialism, science and rationality came to India as an appendage to colonial rule. By the end of the 19th century, the early openness of the British became closed, and racist ideologies began to pervade their rule.

The discovery of a relationship between Sanskrit and European languages led to the formation of the "Aryan theory" — which expressed on the one hand a racial kinship between Europeans and high-caste Indians, and on the other hand defined the Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis as descendents of more primitive, dark-skinned indigenous peoples. The Indian elite accepted this racist interpretation readily enough: they were Aryans, the noble ones, possessors of ancient religious scriptures and high philosophical knowledge. Theirs was a spiritual heritage; the low castes could be seen as subordinate parts of this, incorporated within a hierarchy of "Hinduism" which possessed a unique social system that could incorporate inferior elements without destroying them. Varnashrama dharma was thus given a new justification. All the elite "reform" organisations of the 19th century — the Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj — proclaimed this acceptance of Vedic-Brahman hegemony within Hinduism in their very names.
from What went wrong?

equal opportunities: does salman khursheed believe in them?

"The equal opportunities commission is a big ticket idea and is a broader vision to instill among the citizens of India a sense of equal rights and a share in the national cake," Khurshid, 56, told in an interview.

"The commission with a statutory status would be a forum where people could complain if they felt they were denied any benefits because of their sex, religion, caste, race, language, birthplace, descent," said Khurshid, who holds independent charge of the portfolio.
salman khursheed has been made the minister of minority affairs and shall oversee, i suppose, the setting up of an equal opportunities commission. reminds me of the time, recently, when he argued against equal opportunities. and like m.j.akbar and some other upper class muslim voices, he doesn't seem to like the idea of reservations for muslims- should he be heading or taking an active part in this commission? i support reservations for muslims on par with obcs- but i've increasingly come to realize that reservations are a great excuse for the brahminized classes to continue to deprive access to public services for more and more sections of the lower castes and minorities.

the elite would like to keep their iits and their delhi public schools (with which khursheed was closely associated until recently) and bribe the deprived sections with crumbs of reservations so that they can continue to foster the ugly hierarchies in indian society- personally, i find this increasingly unacceptable. reservations which don't address the question of elitism- whose ends do they serve?

would welcome with thanks more information from anyone on the Dr.K.Krishna Murthy vs. Union of India issue.


'Is it because he is a Dalit or because he is a servant (hence poor)?'

originally from here. a friend posted this on a social network and i found this comment there:
Is it because he is a Dalit or because he is a servant (hence poor)?
i wonder: do the poor everywhere eat under tables?


19 mps and 7 cabinet ministers from st.stephen's

there is this community that i know about- dispersed over andhra, tamil nadu, karnataka, maharashtra (listed as backward in all four states) and, most probably, also chhattisgarh and orissa- which has sent only one mp to one lok sabha out of fifteen. there is no one from it in the current andhra pradesh assembly, nor in the last one. as far as i know, there have been only two mlas from the community in 14 vidhan sabhas. and no cabinet minister in the centre or the state until now. in 62 years.

there have been several times more naxalites than mps from that community. the number of naxalites from the community killed in encounters would be more than the number of mlas from the community in all the vidhan sabhas.

in andhra pradesh, you could divide castes into two broad categories- castes which can boast of more mlas than community members killed in encounters, and castes which can count more community members killed in encounters than mlas.

only a handful of castes would fall in the first category, while there'd be over 150 communities (nearly 100 backward class communities plus over 50 scheduled castes and not counting the scheduled tribes, muslim lower castes) which would fall in the second category. contrary to what you might think, this is an easy number to calculate because it has been acknowledged by several members in the state assembly that only 12-15 of the 107 obc communities and only around 4-5 of the nearly 60 scheduled caste communities in the state have ever sent an mla to the vidhan sabha.

yes, it's a big assumption that at least one person from every one of those communities could have a) joined the naxalites and b) been killed in an encounter later. actually, only part (b) is a big assumption, i think. for people from the second category of communities it's much easier to join the naxals than be elected to the vidhan sabha or the lok sabha. or get admitted into st.stephens.


from the article (via abi)- poverty's two way street:
Though the poor are commonly believed to be fatalistic, our conversations with 60,000 poor people in 15 countries showed this to be patently untrue.

When the world meets the hopeful poor halfway, people rise out of poverty. They open shops, move to big cities to work as cooks or chauffeurs, send their children to learn new skills and languages. They ask little of their governments. They take matters into their own hands.

But as millions rise out of poverty, millions fall in — partly because “free markets” are not free enough, and partly because of the lack of healthcare.

In the recession-battered West, governments are moving to insulate citizens from excessive exposure to markets. But for the poor, being cut off from markets is the problem. In fishing communities in Cambodia, fishermen get lower prices for their fish and are forbidden from fishing where large trawlers go; in the coffee-growing region of Tanzania, cheating in the weighing of coffee beans is so institutionalized that it has a name, Masomba; in West Bengal traders without political connections have no hope.
if you were from one of those second category of communities i talked about in the earlier part of the post- would you trust the state or the market? was discussing, loosely, the same issue with a fellow blogger yesterday. more on the subject later.

some backward logic

A large number of the so-called backward castes are still desperately poor and their lifestyle is no better than that of the indigent Schedule Castes (SC). They are not even thinking of getting comfortable jobs in the private sector or admission into prestigious educational institutions. If they seek employment outside agriculture, and most of them do, they would be happy to get one which pays by the month and not by the hour. They realise that for this to happen they need better schools for their children. Which is why, when Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad failed to deliver, these castes turned around and voted for Mayawati in UP and Nitish Kumar in Bihar. [emphasis mine]
dipankar gupta, may 2009.
Caste determinism works in other ways too. Advocates of OBC reservation seem to believe that once an OBC always an OBC. Many OBCs did exceedingly well before the Mandal storm broke, but our reservation advocates believe that they are culturally incapable of sustaining their ‘creamy layer’ status without the reservation prop. Such crude forms of identification should have angered members of the OBC communities but, strangely enough, they have not yet taken umbrage at being labelled culturally inadequate. [emphasis mine]
dipankar gupta, april 2007.

does 'many obcs' mean 'a large number of the so-called backward castes'? if they were 'doing exceedingly well before mandal' why are they 'still desperately poor now'?


not so transparent survey

Political parties are perceived to be the most corrupt institution by the Indians, according to 2009 Global Corruption Barometer. The Barometer, a global public opinion survey, released today by Transparency International (TI), found 58 per cent of the Indian respondents identified politicians to be single most corrupt individuals. 45 per cent of the people sampled feel that the government is ineffective in addressing corruption in the country.

Civil servants /public officials were rated by 13 per cent of respondents as the second most corrupt institution in the country. Other institutions that were polled included the parliament/legislature , the private sector, media and the judiciary.

if civil servants are perceived as corrupt by only 13% of those surveyed in india by transparency international, there must be something very right with india and all those people living on less than a dollar a day each must only be spending less because they're saving up to buy big things in the near future- like holidays trips across the world, large houses, fancy cars etc.,

or something must be very wrong with the survey or those surveyed. who were surveyed?

The Barometer, now in its sixth edition, surveyed 73,132 people in 69 countries including 12 countries from Asia Pacific. In India, the survey was conducted in five metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. The main findings for India are as follows :

· 10 per cent of the respondents feel that Parliament and law making bodies are corrupt

· 9 percent of those surveyed consider business and private sector to be corrupt

· 8 per cent consider that corruption in media affect the lives of people, and

· 3 per cent consider the judiciary to be corrupt.

there. everyone except the politicians are almost clean- looks like the people surveyed must be working in the government/the organized public or private sector/ or are media, law or other professionals.

most of india's organized sector is concentrated in the metros. so is the government, the media and the judiciary. if you conduct a survey in the metros, you'd most likely meet many of those folks. and if you ask the folks working in any of those fields who in their view is the most corrupt, politicians will naturally score very high. because a judge or a lawyer would come from the same family as a jounalist or bureaucrat and you wouldn't expect them to point fingers at their own families, would you?

moreover, the brahminized classes dominate those sections. the same classes which now root for a technocrat as a prime minister. if it wasn't manmohan singh, their next best options would be narayana murthy, nandan nilekani, ratan tata and so on. one of them, not a career politician like mayawati or sharad pawar or whoever. politics is dirty because that's the only area where the polluting classes have a significant presence or have been pushing for a significant presence these days. so you can't trust them- politicians have to interact with the hoi polloi every day, make deals with them, sleep with them. for their filthy votes. bureaucrats, corporate leaders, the legal fraternity, media don't have to depend on them for survival.

you don't need two hands to clap? if the babus, the legal fraternity, the corporate leaders, the professionals of all kinds are clean- how do the politicians manage to make all that money?


even the 'reformers' want more of the same

mihir sen in the hindu:
Yes, reforms in India correctly entail privatisation of sectors such as airports, airlines, hotels, and cars but throughout the world, public goods like health, education and environment have been provided for or protected by governments. Ever since the Great Depression of the 1930s, capitalist democracies have seen major investments by the state in the fundamental rights of its citizenry. The difference is that in the U.S., Europe, South-East and East Asia, the state has invariably delivered. In India it has failed — both in the magnitude of its effort and in its quality. Thus, the suffering of our people is not just a tale of market failure. It is also a failure of governance. Which is where reforms for the poor must focus.
the reaction of those sections of the articulate classes in india which have welcomed the return of the congress has essentially been: thanks, for saving our jobs, our banks, our lifestyles. now, please do something about higher education, terrorism and...oh, the nrega was a great idea.

health, education, environment weren't on the agenda before the elections. and health and education of the poor never were the concerns of the brahminized classes- if sen seems radically different, please read on:
Livelihoods, education and health are not polio drops to be mechanically administered to the people. They represent complex outcomes that demand participatory processes and imaginative solutions. Merely throwing money at the people through direct cash transfers is not only insulting, it does not work. What ensures translation of outlays into outcomes is the software we put into place. This includes deployment of high quality human resource and systems that ensure accountability and stakeholder participation.
now how is this different from what was being done until now? the whole rural development package until now has always aimed to combine participatory processes and imaginative solutions, hasn't it? what the author seems to advocate is a larger presence for the bureaucracy, through such measures as increased administrative allocation under NREGA and other poverty alleviation schemes and also strengthen the public sector involvement in health, nutrition, education, banking, watershed, irrigation, NREGA and the Forest Rights Act through deployment of high quality human resource and systems that ensure accountability and stakeholder participation.

i repeat, what has the government been doing until now? how's doing more of the same going to produce better results?

health, education, drinking water and sanitation are public goods, as the author himself acknowledges in the earlier part of the article- how do banking, nrega, irrigation (which in india mostly means large dams) fit in? if the government's involvement in those areas serves the purpose of improving livelihoods, why can't direct cash transfers do that? this mixing of functions- public goods, large infrastructure and poverty alleviation- has always resulted in: lower emphasis on public goods, leakages in poverty schemes and bad planning, delays and corruption in irrigation projects.

the author wants reforms, but would like to keep the bureaucracy. he might as well be saying: thanks, go on saving our jobs, our banks, our lifestyles. in fact, we would like you to improve our job opportunities, our banks, our lifestyles.

a related piece of news- unicef attacks india's record on poverty:
India has failed to use a period of high economic growth to lift tens of millions of people out of poverty, falling far short of China’s record in protecting its population from the ravages of chronic hunger, United Nations officials said on Tuesday.

Unicef, the UN’s child development agency, said India, Asia’s third largest economy, had not followed the example of other regional economies such as China, South Korea and Singapore in investing in its people during an economic boom. It said this failure spelled trouble as the global economy deteriorated, while volatile fuel and food prices had already deepened deprivation over the past two years. (italics mine).

India has failed to use a period of high economic growth to lift tens of millions of people out of poverty.

in the last five years, when the congress-led government at the centre talked about increased allocation to education and health all that resulted in was more iits and iims and greater spending on elitist higher education. in andhra pradesh, while the rajashekhar reddy government spent nearly rs.50,000 crores on large irrigation projects, without adding an extra acre to total irrigated area, hundreds of government schools in the city of hyderabad itself closed down. while the public health infrastructure in the state is breaking down with less than a 1,500 doctors working or not working in 30,000 villages, the state government has made a large donation of hundreds of crores to private hospitals in the state through a health insurance scheme that emphasizes: prevention is impractical.

the hidden nation-state: that's where all the money the unicef talks about went to- some directly, and some indirectly through leakages in the nrega and other schemes.


democracy at work

He also demanded that Centre-sponsored schemes be pruned, arguing that the state suffered trying to match Centre’s grants.
nitish kumar in bihar complains that he doesn't have money, while over the last couple of weeks, parties in the coalition at the centre were working hard, engaged in serious negotiations over who gets what ministry, so that they could serve bihar better.

they used to say: democracy is about villages managing their own affairs, and districts theirs and so on... what can delhi do if the villages just throw up their hands and return the power in their hands to the districts, which pass them onto the state capitals which in turn push everything back to the centre? so delhi makes democracy work extra hard at the centre, to make up for all the passing-the-buck-ness in the villages and districts etc- no pair of grubby hands in the coalition should remain idle!

all that unused power generates so much money in delhi that it has to spend hard working years thinking up schemes to help the poor in bihar. it definitely helps that there are so many do-gooders around in the coalition, everyone competing to get into the right portfolios, ministerial berths that are seeing a lot of action from an investment perspective, to serve the poor in bihar and elsewhere. it's so heartening to see democracy work! when would the ingrates in the villages understand its power?

the hidden state

Perhaps the most important reason for the decoupled debate phenomenon is that the big development challenge in the developing world is not the state-market boundary but the more mundane yet fiendishly difficult question of how to improve the state and its basic capacity to deliver law and order, security and other essential services such as health, water, sanitation and education. That was so before the crisis. That will remain true in its aftermath.
from here.

improve the state and its basic capacity to deliver. who needs to improve? the politicians or the babus? elected officials, of all kinds, don't number more than a million in this country. of them politicians in local bodies wield very little power because very little power trickles down to them from state capitals and delhi. so, politicians who do enjoy some power and authority, across the country, don't number more than a few thousands. and you can change them if you don't like them. every five years or earlier.

that leaves the babus, much more than ten million in number. they represent the state's capacity to deliver more than the politicians, and as the history of the last sixty years has shown, they also represent the state's unwillingness to deliver more than the politicians.

and the babus have built a country of their own. not on their own, but along with their cousins in organized industry, their uncles still on the large irrigated farms, their bright nephews in the class of university teachers, doctors, lawyers and media professionals (like those who are now celebrating the return to normalcy and the rejection of excess).

and in this country within a country, a state hidden within a state works on its own plans and goals, decoupled from the excessive clamour outside.

yes, mayawati thinking that she could gain control over this hidden state was pure excess.


peeing on the wall

first woman speaker. they can't claim: first dalit speaker. i won't go back to the ruling party's efforts to derail the efforts to make the first woman speaker's father the first dalit prime minister of india three decades ago, but I am glad that it is closing in on the lead of the much regressive regional parties- it's only a decade behind them now.

another tokenism much celebrated- the nrega. i wonder if praful bidwai has ever closely checked the figures on this site? some simple arithmetic would tell him that not even 2% of rural india could have benefitted from this display of care. and i'm not even talking about leakages.

black money. here is ashok desai peeing on the wall that divides most of india from his kind of people, the ruling classes:
It is much simpler for them to park money in real estate.
on the other side of the wall, where 80% of india is crammed together on less than 20% of available living space, that wouldn't be remembered as a smart argument against mr.advani- he could as well have said: let them eat cake.
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