will the suicides stop?

60,000 crores: relief for the farmers or the banks?
for the banks, of course. they are sitting on non-productive, soon-to-become-non-productive and long-rotting agricultural credit worth 1,00,000 crores.

this will help 3 crore small and marginal farmers in the country.
oh really? find me 3 crore small and marginal farmers who got institutional credit in the first place, in the last three years or any three years before that. the prime minister himself said not more than 14 days ago:
We are also looking into the credit needs of farmers.We cannot have a situation where 80% of our agricultural sector is outside the formal financial system and suffers from excessive burden of indebtedness.
the total number of all agricultural holdings (large, medium, semi-medium, marginal etc.,) in india was around 120 million, approximately, a few years ago. which doesn't mean we have 120 million farmers in the country. the number of active farmers in the country ranges from 60 million to 100 million, according to various estimates. it's most probably closer to 80 million. but, for the sake of argument, if we assume each of those 120 million or more holdings equals one farmer, only 20%, according to the prime minister, of those 120 million landholders ever gets institutional credit in india- which means not more than 24 million farmers. or more exactly, 24 million landholders. i repeat, where did chidambaram find 30 million agricultural customers for indian banks? and how many of those were actually small and marginal farmers?

well, a substantial number of small and marginal farmers would get relief, anyway.
at best, not more than 10 million small landholders, not farmers, would benefit from this largesse. it doesn't matter how many large farmers benefit from it- they're not killing themselves anyway. mostly.

85% of indian holdings, or 100 million holdings, fall in the small and marginal category. average sizes being two acres and half acre respectively (both are slightly optimistic estimates). there are around 20 million medium and large landholdings in the country (average sizes: 10 acres and 40 acres, respectively). if you were a banker, who'd you treat with more respect- the small guys or those with not less than ten acres each? you can totally rule out the 80 million marginal farmers (with holdings less than half acre each), i think. how many of the 24-25 million farmers who get credit from banks would be small and marginal farmers? .4-5 million (after taking care of the 20 million medium and large farmers)? slightly more- say, 10 million? 13 million? 13 million sounds impossible, doesn't it? considering, that would mean more than half of the 24-25 million agricultural customers of banks are small and marginal farmers. so, even 10 million is a very, very optimistic figure. and most of them wouldn't fall in the suicidal farmer category.

it wouldn't benefit any farmers in distress?
let's talk of farmer p.c.chettiar. he works in the finance ministry in delhi but holds 4 acres in the cauvery delta region. his brother p.d.chettiar, who owns race horses and runs hotels in chennai, owns the adjacent plot of four acres. another brother, p.e.chettiar, whose interest is racing cars and lives in milan also owns four acres. yet another brother, p.f.chettiar, who's an assistant commissioner of police in madurai also has another 4 acres to his name. the last brother, p.g.chettiar, who also owns 4 acres actually looks after agricultural operations in all the twenty five acres all the brothers together own. and all 5 of these small farmers would benefit from this relief offered by chidambaram. that's one kind of farmers this measure would benefit- the absentee farmer from the regions with a long history of access to irrigation. like two-three districts in coastal andhra and western maharashtra, several districts in punjab, haryana, western uttar pradesh and west bengal etc., regions which grow sugarcane, paddy, wheat and other commercially profitable crops. the more prosperous sections of farmers in these regions would benefit.

who wouldn't benefit?
farmers in most of india. in the rainfed, arid regions which constitute 70% of all arable area in india. like vidarbha, telangana, rayalaseema, many parts of karnataka, madhya pradesh, gujarat, rajasthan etc., and also marginal farmers from all over india, including the prosperous, irrigated regions like punjab, coastal andhra etc., i had mentioned earlier.

would the suicides stop?
no. 90% of the farmers who are committing suicide do not receive any institutional credit. if some of them ever did, they do not receive it now. most of their credit needs are met by private moneylenders.

then who'd benefit from this measure?
like i said, prosperous upper caste farmers from the irrigated regions of the country. and upper caste run banks which 'can clean up their books now', as chidambaram says, of some bad credit which would have been written off anyway, in due course. they would receive around 20,000 crores each year as additional capital from the government and this would enable them to lend an additional 2,00,000 each year as credit, hopefully, to more upper caste customers working in the organized sector looking to buy new cars, homes or holidays.

as i said in this post, budgets are mostly about dressing up sectarian interests in widely acceptable, egalitarian garb.

more socialist than the swedes

prof. gadde swarup directed my attention to this post, which talked about why the delivery of public services, like education and healthcare, is so poor in india:
First, especially compared with Bangladesh, India is an extremely heterogeneous society, with many castes, ethnic groups, languages and religions. There is some evidence that polarized societies find it more difficult to build political support for public goods. Second, to the extent that these services are transactions-intensive (a teacher has to spend time with students, doctors with patients), caste or other differences may stand in the way of publicly-provided services working for some people. Low-caste people, for instance, have been excluded from some public schools and public clinics. They are able to obtain services in the private sector—because they pay for these services. Paradoxically, therefore, the fact that the Indian government mandated free and universal public education and health, and decided to finance and provide it from the public sector, may be the reason poor people are largely obtaining these services in the private sector.
i've talked about this issue in too many posts: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah etc., and blah, blah, blah, and blah and..here's the gist of most of the arguments made in those posts:

* the welfare government of india focusses more on equalizing outcomes than opportunities and fails miserably on both counts,
* the brunt of this failure is borne more by the lower castes and other marginalized sections of indian society- more parliamentary time is spent on discussing issues related to the pay and pensions of the 33 lakh strong central government staff and on whether the goi should disinvest its holdings in the public sector insurance/telecom/airline/hotel businesses to the extent of 75% or 49% than on the miserable conditions of public schools in which more than a 100 million children from the lowest strata of indian society study,
* if the government wishes to improve the opportunity structure, at least, for the lower castes in this country it needs to focus more, much more undivided attention on the school education, healthcare and other factors that impact human development of these sections,
* and this can only happen if it sheds a lot of excess baggage it has gathered over the years, in terms of policies and implementation machinery- education, healthcare, rural infrastructure and justice should be four of the most important priorities of the goi out of a total of ten, and not four also-important-goals out of a hundred other priority areas,
* and it has to do this on its own because # the market can't deliver education to most of the lower castes because they don't constitute a market, # it's its primary job to build a nation of citizens with equal access to opportunities.

you might wonder- what excess baggage? i'm talking about the idelogical baggage that dictates that the government should govern most aspects of economic and social life in the country. and the huge multi-headed, many armed people and policy apparatus built in mindless pursuit of that goal.

inspired by a blogger who every once in a while points out how the socialist government of sweden takes more care of the welfare of its citizens than neo-liberal india, i've devised this crude graphic presentation to point out how much more socialist the government of india is than the government of sweden:

here's the swedish government (list of its ministries- from the wikipedia):

* Ministry of Justice
* Ministry for Foreign Affairs
* Ministry of Defence
* Ministry of Health and Social Affairs
* Ministry of Finance
* Ministry of Education and Research
* Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
* Ministry of the Environment
* Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications
* Ministry of Integration and Gender Equality
* Ministry of Culture
* Ministry of Employment

here's the indian central government (again from the wikipedia):

# Ministry of Agriculture
# Ministry of Agro and Rural Industries
# Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
# Ministry of Civil Aviation
# Ministry of Coal
# Ministry of Commerce and Industry
# Ministry of Communications and Information Technology
# Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
# Ministry of Corporate Affairs
# Ministry of Culture
# Ministry of Defence
# Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region
# Ministry of Earth Sciences
# Ministry of Environment and Forests
# Ministry of External Affairs
# Ministry of Finance
# Ministry of Food Processing Industries
# Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
# Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
# Ministry of Home Affairs
# Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
# Ministry of Human Resource Development
# Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
# Ministry of Labour and Employment
# Ministry of Law and Justice
# Ministry of Mines
# Ministry of Minority Affairs
# Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
# Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs
# Ministry of Panchayati Raj
# Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs
# Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
# Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
# Ministry of Power
# Ministry of Railways
# Ministry of Rural Development
# Ministry of Science and Technology
# Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways
# Ministry of Small Scale Industries
# Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
# Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
# Ministry of Steel
# Ministry of Textiles
# Ministry of Tourism
# Ministry of Tribal Affairs
# Ministry of Urban Development
# Ministry of Water Resources
# Ministry of Women and Child Development
# Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

the ministries marked in red (in the indian list) are common to both governments, nominally. sweden has twelve ministries, apart from the prime minister's office... india has so many more socialistic arms! and there are also ministers of state and deputy ministers etc., does more socialism deliver more welfare?


the 'unintended' audience

a commenter, here, says:
this was interesting because i have always read in film studies texts that the characters that amitabh played were emphatically caste-less.
i've no answer to that. perhaps, those wiser men and women do not consider the issues i touched upon in that post of any significance. but consider this: why would an indian make a chinese film? he could make a film in chinese but would that be a chinese film? one needs to look at the who aspect of popular cinema in india to understand why the angry young man was an upper caste hindu. who makes the films, who distributes them, who pays to watch them?

i'll deal with the question of 'who makes them' in a later post, hopefully, but the other two questions are simpler to answer. there are around 2.5 lakh villages in india without electricity- indian films are not made for audiences in those villages. that means for nearly 35% of india: no power, no cinema. cinemas, or theatres, in india number around 12000. around 40% of them are in the states of andhra pradesh and tamil nadu. and a majority of cinemas, across india, are in the metros, 40 cities with over a million population each, and in a couple of thousand towns with around a lakh population each. how many of the 12,000 theatres are we left with now to distribute across the 6 lakh villages (make that 3.5 lakh villages, because as i mentioned earlier, 2.5 lakh villages do not have access to electricity) of india?. not many. so, most of them are distrbuted among villages in more prosperous regions of the country, those with access to irrigation and a history of successful commercial farming. upper caste dominated villages, in other words.

in his essay Indian Popular Cinema as a Slum's Eye View of Politics, ashis nandy offers the urban slum as a metaphor for popular cinema in india. he dubs the slum the 'unintended city'. most of india's mostly rural, marginalized lower castes are an 'unintended audience' for indian cinema. it has been so since amitabh's angry younger days. cinemas in india in 1980 numbered around 10,000-11,000. in 1990, around 12,000 (ashis nandy puts the figure at an optimistic 13,000) and now number 12,000. looking at those figures, you could say, there has been little growth. is that true?

indian film industry in particular, and entertainment industry in general, have been one of the fastest growing sectors of the indian economy. revenues have tripled in the last ten years and are expected to continue to grow at a rate of 17% a year. how did all this growth in revenues happen without a concomitant growth in distribution outlets? oh, the number of distribution outlets did grow, but not in the villages. definitely not in the villages that didn't have any cinemas when amitabh's films were first screened in the 70s and the 80s. growth happened in those areas where indian cinema's intended audiences always lived- in metros, cities, and towns. and in the prosperous villages i referred to earlier. around 20,000 new multiplex screens have sprung across urban india in the last ten years. that's nearly double the number of single screen cinemas in the country. and none of this growth happened in the villages with the unintended audiences.

oh yes, lower caste india does watch indian films but they're not the market, from the film-maker's perspective. not in the 70s, not now. their access to popular cinema is mostly through channels which are, to put it bluntly, not so legal. temporary theatres, video theatres, cable and regular cinemas in the many backward and lawless regions of the country that do not report their full revenues to either the producer, or the government. they were the unintended audience of the 70s, though film-makers of those times were less aware of that fact. they're definitely the unintended audience now.


manufacturing a revolution

how many times have i seen this over the last few years? different authors, but the same article, quoting the same studies, featuring the same photographs and making the same arguments: deregulate schools so that education entrepreneurs can start different schools for different classes. low budget schools for the lower classes, expensive schools for the upper classes. here's some old wine in a new bottle:

There are important lessons here for education policymakers in India. Education entrepreneurs need to be encouraged by removing rules that hinder the establishment and operation of schools in the primary, secondary and higher secondary areas of education. Competing schools will create choices for parents, improving access and quality for all. The government can then focus its limited education budget on the neediest sections of society.

Inadequate education in India is not only a funding problem but also a result of over-regulation of the school market. The burgeoning market of low-budget private schools has enormous potential to do public good.

every time i read choice in this debate over schooling in india, about different schools for different classes, i hear caste, and i hear different schools for different castes. and i think: why don't we carry this idea forward, why don't we have different nations for different castes?

i've seen mr.gurcharandas arguing on talk shows on reservations and couldn't help thinking: he should visit india some time. and find out how a dalit is different from a kamma. or a kammari. or a kurmi. or how yechury yesobu can't be sitaram yechury. and why they both need to go to the same school.


union budgets: funding caste

the indian government still largely drives the indian economy. it still decides the course and extent of wealth creation and distribution. the organized public sector is still the highest paying and the largest employer (employee strength: 18 million) in the country. and its employees still constitute the largest segment of the market for goods and services produced by the organized private sector in the country. together, those who run the organized public sector (which includes the government) and the organized private sector represent the most fortunate sections of the indian economy. who are they?

here's some probably-not-very-far-off-the-mark guesswork:

last year (2007-08), the finance minister estimated that he'd have to spend nearly 46,400 crore rupees on the salaries, allowances and travel expenses of nearly 33 lakh central government employees. this apart from the nearly 8,000 crores to be incurred on their pensions. by various estimates, not more than 25-30% of those employees are dalit, adivasi, obc and muslim. which means the central budget takes care of around 24 lakh upper caste hindu families, directly, through, say, 45,000 crores (most of the reserved classes and the minorities are in class 3 & 4 jobs so their average salaries would be low, of course). the state governments, public sector enterprises (owned by the centre and the states), nationalized banks etc., take care of (assuming a similar share, as in the central government, for the upper castes) another 115 lakh families or so. would their wage and allowances and incidental expenses bill come to another, say, 1,50,000 crores (let's assume the salaries are lower in the states and the psus)? the organized private sector chips in with its own contributions to support another 65 lakh families (of a total 9 million). would that amount to a combined wage bill of 90,000 crores (the average private sector salaries are lower than the salaries in the public sector, by some estimates)? add to these numbers, the large defence establishment of the country, whose size varies, according to some estimates, from 2-3 million. let's go for the conservative estmate, 2 million. its combined salary and pension bill runs to another 65,000 crores. let's assume, again, that the upper caste hindus make up around 70% (only) of total employees (which means 1.4 million of 2 million) in this sector of organized employment too and their wage bill amounts to, say, (only) 45,000 crores.

what does all that mean? well, looking closely, all those facts (assumed yes, but they're not far off the mark, in my view) read together with the history of independent india in the last sixty years seem to indicate that one of the main objectives of the indian state, through its policies and pursuits, is to fund the lives of: around 14 million families of upper caste hindus directly, and through them, the lives of another 6.5 million families of upper caste hindus indirectly. or, totally, around 20.5 million upper caste hindu families. last year, it gifted each of those 20.5 million families an assured, average paycheck of around rs.1,61,000 (rs.3,30,000 crores divided by 20.5 million employees). 20.5 million families mean around 106 million individuals (the average indian family size is around 5.2 individuals). or around 71% to 53% or 42% (depending on three varying estimates of their size: 150 million, 200 million and 250 million) of all upper caste individuals in the country.

after these 106 million individuals are taken care of, the rest of the budget is all about dressing up all other efforts of the government to take care of the other 44 or 94 or 144 million of upper caste hindus in the country, in widely acceptable egalitarian garb.


the angry young man wasn't an outcaste

the angry young man wasn't an outcaste. not even in the film 'lawaris' in which he turns out to be the son of thakur ranvir singh, a rajput. and he wasn't a nobody, a person without caste, an outsider (as one critic points out) in any of his films. he was a rajput, brahmin, vaishya, baidya, kayasth, khatri, bhumihar...and only once a jat, but never a yadav (even in these ugly mandalized times when even yadav characters, albeit of a negative kind, are making their way into films ). he was a muslim in a couple of films, but you could sense that he was from a 'good family' even when he was a coolie. of the kind that indulged in shayari and other genteel obsessions. or of the kind that headed whole clans. check this random list of his films (and the characters he played in them):

saat hindustani- anwar ali (upper caste muslim)
parwana- kumar sen (baidya/kayasth)
anand- dr.bhaskar k. bannerjee (brahmin)
raaste ka patthar- jai shankar rai (bhumihar)
zanjeer- vijay khanna (khatri)
kasauti- amitabh sharma (brahmin)
benaam- amit srivastav (kayasth)
majboor- ravi khanna (khatri)
deewaaar- vijay verma (rajput)
chupke chupke- professor sukumar sinha (bhumihar/kayasth)
do anjaane- amit roy/naresh dutt (kayasth)
adalat- dharma / thakur dharam chand (rajput)
trishul- vijay kumar gupta (vaishya)
jurmana- inder saxena (kayasth)
suhaag- amit kapoor (khatri)
dostana- vijay varma (rajput)
barsaat ki ek raat- abhijeet rai (bhumihar)
lawaris- heera (rajput)
namak halaal- arjun singh (jat)
khuddar- govind srivastav (kayasth)
bemisal- dr.sudhir roy/adhir roy (kayasth)
desh premee- master dinanath/raju (maratha/brahmin)
mahaan- amit / rana ranveer (rajput)
sharaabi- vicky kapoor (khatri)
kabhi kabhie- amitabh malhotra (khatri)
silsila- amit malhotra (khatri)
akayla- vijay verma (rajput).

i think i got most of the castes right. those were mostly characters from films made before 1990. you'll notice that some of the films had characters with names/surnames that might seem ambiguous, but if you recall the films (featuring the characters) you'll learn from hints dropped in the films that there can be no ambiguity about the savarna lineage of the characters. the 70s, 80s represented a conservative era, while today's films make no bones about who their heroes are:

suryavansham- thakur bhanu pratap singh (rajput)
kabhi khushi kabhie gham- yashvardhan raichand (khatri)
baghban- raj malhotra (khatri)
aks- manu varma (rajput)
aankhen- vijay singh rajput (rajput)
armaan- dr.siddhath sinha (bhumihar/kayasth)
aetbaar- dr.ranveer malhotra (khatri)
baabul- balraj kapoor (khatri).

a surname that says 'rajput', need not indicate a rajput, usually. but i think, in these instances, the filmmakers wanted to make doubly sure that you understood that the character wasn't from any dubious background. this is the age of the sms, so the snshul can't be hinted at. it has to be mblazoned.

so what was the angry young man angry about, anyway? there wasn't much to complain about in the seventies, from his perspective. mandal wasn't even constituted until the late seventies, and nobody even looked back at its report until the late eighties.

anil dharker has an answer:
With the films that followed, Amitabh Bachchan began establishing a definitive screen persona — ``Deewar," ``Namak Haram," ``Trishul," ``Muqaddar ka Sikandar," ``Namak Halal," ``Coolie"... in all of them, yes he was the Angry Young Man, but what was important was what he was angry about. Social injustice, the disparities between rich and poor, the struggle for survival through poverty... these weren't exactly new themes for Hindi cinema, but in the smouldering face of Amitabh Bachchan, they found the ultimate expression. For the vast majority of cinema audiences — the poor, the unemployed, the illiterate — he became the hero.
he became the hero because he fought against injustice, inequality and poverty? in my view, what he essentially fought against, if you look closely, was his poverty which he saw as unjust and unexpected. wasn't poverty and powerlessness the lot of the lower castes? shouldn't they bear the brunt of shortages and drought and hunger? the angry young man was angry because he'd to stand next to the lower caste scum in seemingly endless queues for everything: right from rations to cinema tickets. wasn't prime minister after prime minister, chief minister after chief minister, parliamentarian after parliamentarian, legislator after legislator, babu after babu, contractor after contractor, permitholder after permitholder, licenseholder after licenseholder, a rajput or vaishya or brahmin or baidya or kayasth or khatri or bhumihar..? hadn't the british transferred the reins to them? didn't the transfer mean a return to the old, old order?

vinay lal analyses:
Chandrasekhar’s argument, as it appears in his article "The Amitabh Persona", adopts this viewpoint; as he says, Amitabh’s films embody a "uterine world-view", and the fury of the Angry Young Man abates "the moment the umbilical cord is restored." "In the Indian context," he adds, "the sole irreproachable ideological thesis one can defend is love of the mother." Vijay’s only desire in Deewar is to restore the state of original bliss that existed before he was parted from his mother, and towards the end of the film, as Vijay is bleeding to death, he states that his only desire is to enjoy, in the lap of his mother, that profound sleep of contentment which he has missed since she left him. The Hindi film, then, enacts for the Indian male a double return to the source: seated in the dark chambers of the movie theatre, we all descend into the darkness of the womb, but for the Indian male that darkness is like a wellspring of light, and the womb that place where our sleep is always undisturbed and calm. A film such as Deewar, to extend the argument further, represents the regression of the male into a state of childhood, an attempt to reinstate the primacy of the umbilical stage.
an attempt to reinstate the primacy of the umbilical stage. the stage when the upper caste hindu was more equal than others, when he was served, first, without question and he decided who was served next. when he was served even if the whole village went without food. when everyone stepped aside if he stepped onto the road, and everyone waited on him and he didn't have to wait for anybody. he was angry because he was almost losing caste: in the films, he'd to work in quarries, coal mines, building sites, docks, railway platforms, and all other kinds of unclean places among all kinds of unclean people. for god's sake, he wasn't like them! and, according to this article, javed akhtar feels amitabh was the right person to play the character because he wasn't like them:
It has been suggested that even when Bachchan was playing proletarian characters he always walked "with the posture of an aristocrat." What is often most thrilling about his confrontations with authority is not so much his physical courage as his easy assumption of equality: this guy never feels outclassed. "You see a certain grace about that character," suggests Akhtar. "So many other actors have tried to ape Amitabh, but they've failed. Because they don't have the sophistication and the tehzeeb [culture] that he grew up with. As an actor, Amitabh's anger was never ugly. Other actors mix anger with arrogance. Amitabh's anger was mixed with hurt and tears . . . But I'm afraid that in later pictures even Amitabh developed that arrogance."
easy assumption of equality..was never outclassed..had sophistication and tehzeeb..anger mixed with hurt... the angry young man came from the same social background as amitabh. so it was easy for amitabh to play the character, he'd the sophistication and the tehzeeb, thanks to his background. he could never be outclassed because he came from a rung above the caste that miners, dockworkers and coolies usually came from. and his anger was mixed with hurt and tears because the kind of shortages, poverty and injustice...the rejection that usually came the lower caste folks/workers way was something that neither amitabh, the actor who knocked on producers' doors with a letter of recommendation from the prime minister, nor vijay verma, dockworker from an upper caste background, expected from (the film industry, in amitabh the actor's case, or) life in general. definitely not in an india in which the rajputs, brahmins, vaishyas, baidyas, kayasths, khatris, bhumihars had gained independence.

going back to vinay lal, this excerpt from his essay ' The Impossibility of the Outsider in the Modern Hindi Film', concludes:
We recall that it is at the temple steps that the two brothers, in their adolescence, already seemed to be veering towards two different paths, and that Vijay seemed marked as the loner, as the outsider; but now, if it has not been established before, it becomes indubitably clear that he, too, must be drawn into the circle of inclusivity. Far from being a film about the outsider, Deewar is about the impossibility of being one.
the angry young man wanted to go back to his womb, to be reconnected to the cord that served him, automatically. doesn't he seem like a hindutvavadi?

a girl of a lower varna

Caste restricts opportunity. Restricted opportunity constricts ability. Constricted ability further restricts opportunity. Where caste prevails, opportunity and ability are restricted to ever-narrowing circles of the people.
lohia said that- but he should have added: caste restricts common sense too.

long ago, a friend's marriage was arranged by a political party. this is how it happened: he was a card carrying member of one of the communist partes and the immediate leadership found a progressive match for him in a fellow member of the party. my friend was a brahmin, a kannadiga, and employed in a bank. the girl was a kamma, a telugu, and a doctor of some kind. my friend didn't find anything restrictive in the party finding a suitable girl for him. in fact, he was very proud of the fact that he'd defied his father and married a girl of a lower varna.

yes, that's what he said: a girl of a lower varna.


fluidity of the cesspool

once upon a time, not so long ago, educated hindus found a handy teddy bear in the theory of sanskritization. if a jati can move up the hierarchy by shedding its old, ugly customs and beliefs and adopting sanskritic mores, the caste system can't be so bad, right? it is flexible, allows mobility,. and what if the jatis themselves do not disappear, what's wrong if people still marry within their own jatis..look, these things exist in the west too, like in... (drop the name of an advanced western nation and mention how they still practice a certain kind of social stratification etc., here).

as i said, a handy teddy bear to help you comfort yourself, to ward off any demons that might hound your conscience. that'd help you dismiss any doubts about how would sanskritization promote substantive inclusiveness if you continue to practise caste in everything that you do. people do not flock to medaram to satisfy ancient, atavistic impulses. they go there because they do not feel included, and not just in the scriptural fold but also in the many structures and processes that govern this nation, and state. like i had pointed out here:
* there are 59 scheduled caste communities in andhra pradesh and no aspirant from over 50 of those communities has ever been elected to the state assembly (or council),
* the other backward class communities in the state number 93- no aspirant from over 70 of them has ever been elected to the state assembly (or council)
medaram, with all its superstition, represents the religions of these communities more than prayaga, with all its superstition. and these religions survive the steady onslaught of not just sanskritization, but also westernization, because their adherents haven't moved up. and they haven't moved up because the caste system still is what it always was: a hierarchical structure. which means only a few can occupy the top.

in my last post, i'd hinted that sanskritization did ensure mobility for a few communities across india, but taking into account the general status of the overwhelming majority of the castes broadly categorized as hindus one can clearly see that sanskritization doesn't ensure either mobilty or equality.

i found in this article by m.shahbaz saeed, a pakistani researcher, a useful explanation of how sanskritization worked and still works for the few communities ( 'intermediate castes', or 'middle castes' or 'upper-obcs' ) i'd mentioned in the last paragraph:
As the modern age has infringed on the classic Indian social order, the traditional Indian society has been transformed into the upper national elite living in urban areas, and the rural social elite, comprising both the dominant peasant castes and the upper rural class.The ruling national elites, although they belonged to the upper “dwija” castes, had become detached from their traditional ritual status and functions. They had acquired new interests in the changed (planned) economy, and lifestyles which came through modern education, non-traditional occupations, and a degree of westernization which accompanied this process. The dominant castes of the regional elites still depend more on Sanskritization than on westernization in their pursuit of upward social mobility. But they encourage their new generations to acquire modern, English-medium education and to adopt new professions. Consequently, such communities as Patidars, Marathas, Reddys, Kammas, and their analogues in different regions were identified with “upper castes”, and not with “backward castes”. Acquisition of modern education and interest in the new planned economy enabled them, like the dwija upper castes, to claim for themselves a new social status and identity, i.e., that of the middle class.

At the same time, the caste identities of both these sections of the “middle class” were far from dissolved. They could comfortably own both the upper-caste status and the middle-class identity, as both categories had become concomitant with each other. While the alliance between the upper caste national elite and the dominant caste regional elites remained tenuous in politics, together they continued to function as a new power-group in the larger society. With the formation and functioning of the middle class as a power group in Indian politics, the elite caste fused with class. Now status, rather than caste as such, had acquired a pronounced power dimension. Since the process of converting traditional status into a new power status was restricted only to the upper rungs in the ritual hierarchy, they sought to use that power in establishing their own caste-like hegemony over the rest of society.It is this nexus between the upper traditional status and new power that has inhibited the transformative potentials of both modernization and democracy in India.
medaram would of course be steadily sanskritized, in the near future. over the last one decade, the state government has slowly moved in, to organize the festival better. just like governments elsewhere organize the kumbh etc. would that make the pilgrims hindus?

if the kumbh is hindu..

.. this isn't:
A little festival of tribal origin in Andhra Pradesh has become a major pilgrimage in the last six years. The Sammakka festival is held once in every two years at Medaram, in the heart of the thick forests of warangal district. The population of the little forest village at Medaram in normal times never exceeds 300. Suddenly, during the month of February it rises to over 90 Lakhs.... of devotees come from all over Andhra Pradesh and five neighboring states
the wikipedia tells you over 70 million people attended the ardh kumbh mela in allahabad in january 2007. allahabad has a population of over a million. less than 300 people live in medaram. which means allahabad attracted 70 times as many pilgrims as residents during the mela, while medaram drew 30,000 times as many pilgrims as residents. there isn't even a permanent structure in medaram, leave alone a couple of huge perennial rivers, thousands of temples and a huge city: so, what explains the medaram phenomenon? medarams happen all over india, all through the year. within a radius of 1 km from my home, there are around a dozen tiny roadside shrines, most of them are no more than waist high structures, which suddenly sprout huge festive crowds every once in a while- people offering animals, setting up stoves and cooking on the pavements, eating, drinking on the roads while hindus pass them by on cars, bikes and buses. together, all these medarams across the country constitute a fragmented kumbh mela which attracts several times more pilgrims, in one year, than the kumbh mela does in six years, or twelve years. the kumbh is for those who have scriptures, the fragmented mela is for those who do not have even regular priests, most times.

medaram is in the middle of nowhere, while allahabad has been at the confluence of rivers, roads, empires and civilizations for at least two millennia. medaram doesn't figure in any of the scriptures- vedas, itihasas or puranas. allahabad is one of the holiest hindu pilgrim sites in india and the most important of the four cities where the kumbh is held. medaram is in the middle of a forest that stretches across five states, the dandakaranya, and allahabad is in the middle of a region that boasts of some of the oldest cities in all of asia. which means all of the world. i don't think anyone from medaram has ever stepped into any indian prime minister's house. allahabad, according to the wikipedia, has produced 7 out of 14 prime ministers of india until now. i could go on, but..

why am i making this comparison? a comment (here) triggered off this train of thought. there are probably as many reasons as hindu gods why most people in india would've heard of prayaga. is there a respectable magazine in the world that doesn't carry a story or a picture of the kumbh when it's on? think of all the agencies that have worked since the beginning of the kumbh, thousands of years ago, at making it known to the world. yes, i've heard of the concepts of karma, dharma, papa and all other indicators of sanskritization- tell me, how does one manage to not hear about them?

the brahmin is a hindu, as are the members of those communities which correspond to the other two higher varnas, especially in those states once referred to, loosely, as aryavarta. in the rest of india, we can see, over several centuries after the arrival of the muslims, a handful of shudra castes in every state have steadily come to play the role of those two varnas (kshatriya and vaishya). this happened more rapidly during british rule, and much more dramatically after independence. we now refer to them as the intermediate castes or the upper obcs, and they don't number more than 50, across india. sanskritization worked for them.

like i said, they don't number more than 50 (maybe upto 75 or a little more, of 3000-6000 castes in india). who are the rest? haven't they heard of sanskritization and the fluidity of the caste system?


exhuming mumbai

over a million people live in dharavi, in an area spread over roughly 600 acres. roughly, again, you could say that each resident has access to around 3 sq.yds of living space. if you exclude the space occupied by such unnecessary frills as walls, roads etc., you'll realize there is not much space left for everyone to eat, shit, sit, play, dance, pace, make love, sleep, read, work, cook, fart, breathe, live in but just enough space to lie down and die, if you squeezed in your legs and your arms and pulled in your whole body together a little. yes, you can rest in peace in dharavi. roughly.

for the last thirty years, while the residents of dharavi and other slums in mumbai were doing just that, resting in peace, the governments of mumbai, maharashtra and india were engaged in furious, energetic efforts to ensure that no one eats, shits, sits, plays, dances, paces, makes love, sleeps, reads, works, cooks, farts, breathes, lives in over 34,000 acres of land in mumbai. not in peace, at least. now, suddenly the government has decided to give up its vigil- that powerful, progressive legislation designed to protect the poor from landlords always eager to hoard land in their tijoris and smuggle it abroad or even to the afterlife, the ulcra, has been scrapped:
After deferring this major reform measure from one Assembly session to another, the Maharashtra government today finally scrapped a law that controls urban land holdings, potentially freeing up large tracts in Mumbai for housing and construction and sending shares of property firms sharply higher.

Amidst slogan-shouting by Shiv Sena members, the resolution to repeal the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act of 1976, moved by Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, was passed by a voice vote in the state Assembly.
the report says the chief minister admitted that 'the Act has failed to serve the purpose'. it's quite obvious to every discerning citizen in mumbai by now that the 'Act has failed', but what was the original purpose of the act anyway?

truth isn't reality

the 34,000 acres weren't manufactured over the last thirty years- they were there in 1976 when the act was promulgated. and one of the purposes served by the act was to keep them vacant so that land elsewhere in mumbai became costlier and costlier- definitely out of the reach of the poor, out of the reach of those living in slums such as dharavi. and also out of the reach of most of the working classes. and those from the middle and the upper classes who could still afford to pay for it, paid several times more than they would have if those 34,000 and many more acres that had simply disappeared were available for sale.

many say dharavi isn't as large as 600 acres: it's only 175 hectares, or 430 acres. which means each resident has to squeeze himself tighter than i assumed ealier- his total access to space has declined by around a third in the space of a few lines of text. that's what legislation of the kind the urban land ceiling act represents- grand, arbitrary, idealistic, myopic, progressive, repressive, noble, inane, call it what you will, depending on your ideological tilt, your favourite bollywood heroine and your lucky number- ultimately ends up doing. distorting truth and reality, dividing them, rendering both meaningless. banishing them to the murky world of rumour, speculation, gossip, fantasy (read this, this and this to get as many estimates of the area, population, population density, slums, slumdwelling population in mumbai as three different citizens of mumbai can think up).

mumbai, as the wikipedia says, occupies 603 sq.kilometres (i've read elsewhere that it is spread over only 430 sq.kms or so- as i said, you're free to choose your reality here). which converts into around 1,49,000 acres. and the population of mumbai, again according to the wikipedia, was 13.3 million in 2006. which means the residents of dharavi, who constitute around 7.5% of mumbai's population, live on around 0.29% of the total land area in mumbai!

and it's not just dharavi, according to various estimates over half of mumbai lives in slums. one estimate says about 40% of the city's population lives in 3.5% of its area. in 1976, around the time the ulcra was brought in, bombay's population was about 5.9 million. the slumdwellers numbered 2.8 million. and common sense tells you, the available 'excess' or vacant land was probably much more than 34,000 acres. enough to accomodate all of the 2.8 million slumdwellers (in 1976) in some decent housing. and also enough to accommodate all of the 3-4 million additional influx of people into the slums since then. with more than enough land to spare for parks, roads, offices etc., and for future parks, roads etc. why didn't that happen?

the road to hell

the road to hell is paved with good intentions and is also dotted with grand obsessions, egoisms and vanities. instead of disappearing, slums in mumbai multiplied since 1976. what did disappear was one-third the land mass of the city- land that you could touch, feel and see everyday but... in the new reality, it didn't exist. it didn't exist for the slumdwellers whose number more than doubled, from 2.8 million in 1976 to around 6-7 million now. it didn't exist for the lakhs of migrants who still kept coming to mumbai and dharavi grew denser. and it didn't exist for all the homeseekers who paid at least 30% more, for the available land, than they'd have if the ulcra hadn't been promulgated. and the lawyers, builders, fixers, goons, politicians, babus, policemen, gangsters grew richer protecting, invading and trading in land that belonged to anyone, and also the land that suddenly belonged to no one, that had suddenly fallen off the map of the world.

how did this state sponsored deprivation work on the collective psyche of mumbai? and how did it affect india?


indian first?

dilip wants you to choose:
I choose to be Indian first. I choose to be a citizen for peace.
i've a choice? can i be a brahmin first, anywhere in the country? say, delhi? a bureaucrat? a dictator or a mass murderer who can go unpunished?

there's not much to choose from really: if you wish to be an indian, you've to choose your parents and trust their judgment on their choice of community and/or religion. if their choice turns out right on both counts, you should further trust their judgment on their choice of a) state. and b) the region. it's no good if they choose maharashtra and vidarbha (the rain gods didn't choose vidarbha, so why should anyone choose vidarbha?). both a and b have to be the right choices. say, maharashtra and western maharashtra. now you'll have to depend on their choice of place- village or town? if it's a village, they would've to choose a village where sugarcane is the major crop and not jowar or bajra. why go through all the hassle of lobbying to convince the central government to support bajra? no, i haven't come around to your parents' profession yet- i'm just trying to point out that it'd be wise for your parents to choose the right kind of village to be born in. for both of them. now, we'll have to let your parents decide what kind of teachers choose to work in the village they chose to be born in. oh, they'd have to choose what kind of grandparents they'd want you to have before they do all this choosing. and...does all this sound very karma-esque? well, you've no choice but to let your chosen parents make all those choices so that you can become an indian. so that you when you speak, those who matter listen. and don't treat you like you're a sundry samosawallah. like someone who chose the wrong parents.

i don't wish to be an indian. first or last. i'd hate to live in a country where you've to choose your parents. where if you're from the wrong village, region, community, religion..you've to go to the right place and be treated like a samosawallah. i live in a country where one learns too late that you've to choose your parents.


andesri, unlettered poet

i had this strong desire to learn, but where was the opportunity? all my friends went to school and would tend to the cattle only on saturdays, sundays. i would admire the pictures in their books and pester them to tell me devdatta's story. it was about how siddhartha turned into the buddha. they'd promise to tell the story if i looked after their herds. they'd never finish a story in one day- each tale would drag on for 4-5 days. this was a ruse to ensure that i looked after their animals all those days. but, does it matter? i learnt to read from them, but i haven't learnt to write until now. *
he never went to school but was awarded a doctorate a couple of weeks ago. he worked as a shepherd, a farm hand, a construction labourer, and at other odd jobs since the age of six.. never enjoyed a freshly cooked meal until he was well into his teens. his mother ran away when he was seven, a sister three years later, and his father could never bring home enough to eat. poverty, disease, hunger, unrelenting shadows, followed him all through his childhood and youth.

if you can read telugu, please learn about andesri, in his own words. because this unlettered poet of the indian village might teach us a lot about india. like kaloji, gaddar, he is yet another literary miracle shaped by the harsh but magnificient soul of telangana. how does a land ravaged by so much deprivation, violence and misfortune produce such generous lovers of humanity? life has been so unkind to him- yet he sings like my mother.

[* my translation of a part of this page. via kaumudi. one day, perhaps, i'll try and translate the whole page.]


the public sector doesn't discriminate?

chandrabhan prasad arguing for reservations for dalits in the private sector says:

There are 58,000 dalit/tribal professionals working with public sector enterprises (PSEs) and public sector banks. According to a report by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (1989), there are 21,215 dalits/tribals in managerial/professional positions so senior that they are categorised as Group A, equivalent to the IAS/IPS. Most of these officers are either engineers or IT professionals; many are employed in organisations like BHEL, SAIL, NTPC, ONGC, IOC, MTNL, VSNL, HPCL and GAIL. Has any study been conducted by these organisations to show that dalit professionals under-perform?
when he says 'public sector enterprises and public sector banks', one can see he means the central public sector enterprises and the nationalized banks. in 1990, these two kinds of organizations provided employment to around 26 lakh people. 58,000 out of 26,00,000?

don't nurse any wrong notions that both the overal strength and the dalit representation in these enterprises might have gone up since 1989. the banks which employed around a million people in 1990 have shed a lot of weight - their employees number around 8.5 lakhs now. employment in central public sector enterprises too has come down to around 16 lakhs or so. and the total number of employees in all kinds of public sector enterprises (central and states-owned enterprises, banks, departmental undertakings) has also come down from around 61 lakhs in 1990 to around 58 lakhs now. professor sukhadeo thorat had once remarked that dalit employment in public sector enterprises wouldn't be more than 5%. i don't think it is as high as 5%.

despite the findings of his much quoted (by articulate members of those castes/classes who benefitted the most from socialist india) recent study, i think the organized private sector in india is quite probably more broadminded than socialist india's public sector enterprises. i am confident the number of dalits in the organized private sector is much more than 5%.


think twice before you say you're twice-born

"The Karni Sena wants a ban on the film 'Jodhaa Akbar' an unconditional apology from its director for misrepresentation and social devaluation of Rajputs," Sena patron Lokendra Singh Kalvi said here.
if you were hitler's grandson, would you object to the portrayal of nazis in the film 'schindler's list'? wouldn't you think twice before you even step out and identify yourself as hitler's grandson? wouldn't you object to being identified as a nazi just because your grandfather was one?

it isn't nice to call yourself rajput: you weren't the only people who died fighting invaders. the nameless lower caste soldiers outnumbered you by a hundred to one. maybe more. but you got all the credit. and you claimed all the power after the wars too. just as you had enjoyed them before the wars. and you also enjoyed ownership of all the lands, waters and even the jungles. you fought more fiercely to protect the caste system than you fought the invaders. you shared power with the invaders, so that you could continue to oppress all the lower caste people who'd fought alongside you, after the wars ended. you were the sword arm of the brahmin. unless you still believe you are the master race or of a superior varna, how can anyone 'devalue' you? the terms rajput, brahmin, vaishya do not denote identities, they announce your continued subscription to an hideous ideology.

every time you call yourself a rajput or a brahmin you insult all the lower caste people of india who'd like to be acknowledged as human.

save the lower castes from the state

i've always believed that the state can't save the lower castes. a state-run economy is the worst thing that could have happened to the lower castes after independence. because the state had always been a pain in several tender parts of the collective body of these castes since the beginning of..caste. a modern state with modern technological capabilities: india's socialists didn't/don't realize how much more painful it could be. roads, telecommunications, motorized transport bring the lower caste individual cowering in the furthest corner of the country so much closer to the state. the best modern government for the lower castes would have been one that ensured that every individual among them got definite access to something that his/her forefathers had always been deprived of: good education. and socialist india tried to do everything but that. this article, reinforcing my beliefs, tells you how the lower castes in one indian state had actually prospered because the state had declined:
From 1993-94 to 2004-05 the poverty ratio declined 14% (from 57.24% to 43.06%), compared to an 8% decline in India as a whole and a less than 2.5% decline in Orissa (which has now surpassed Bihar as the state with the highest headcount ratio of 47.76%). Even more surprising, the headcount ratio of the very poor halved in Bihar from 28.29% to 14.65% compared to a 5.74% decrease in India and an actual increase in Orissa (from S. Mahendra Dev and C. Ravi, 2007. These figures are from the 61st round of the NSS and are for united Bihar). While this improvement was from a very low base, it is still surprising given the dismal condition of public institutions and the lack of investment in the state during this period. A combination of higher wages for agricultural laborers and remittances from an increasing number of migrants, many of whom experienced increased labor mobility as traditional patron-client relations and bonded-labor ties broke down, explains this surprising decline in poverty.

There is, in fact, a fundamental tension between lower caste empowerment and state directed development. The key levels of the bureaucracy and the police have long been controlled by people from upper caste backgrounds in Bihar and this control served to reinforce the domination of upper caste landlords in the countryside. In 2002, for example, out of a total of 244 Bihar cadre officers of the elite Indian Admistrative Service, 135 were from upper caste groups, while only seven officers came from the three largest backward caste groups (based on my approximate data). The political assertion of lower castes from the early 1990s resulted in a deep-seated conflict between a new lower caste political leadership and a largely upper caste bureaucracy, police, and judiciary. This is why the politics of caste empowerment resulted in a general breakdown of public institutions in Bihar. Since upper caste control of these institutions had reinforced structural inequalities, however, this also explains why the poor did better than we might expect despite the RJDs government's dismal development record.
[thanks, prof.swarup]


'economics of caste'

on an impulse, i followed prof. gadde swarup's cue and googled 'economics of caste'. this is what i found:
This paper compares outcomes across two types of villages in a poor region of rural India. The two types of villages systematically vary by which cates is dominant, i.e., the caste group which owns the majority of land. The dominant caste is either from an upper caste or a lower backward caste. The key finding is that income is substantially higher for low caste households residing in villages dominated by a backward caste. This difference in income can be explained by better access to private groundwater markets in backward caste dominated villages. The empirical results suggest that upper caste households do not easily trade water with lower caste households. That trade breaks down across caste groups is striking: the potential gains from trade are extremely high. All else equal, lower caste water buyers have agricultural yields which are 45% higher if they reside in a village where water sellers are of the same caste compared to when they are not. This finding points to an example of when culture (the caste system) directly affects the efficiency of markets. The study provides concrete empirical evidence of when social identity impacts very simple trading relationships.
i haven't read siwan anderson's paper fully as yet, but the abstract does raise questions about several widely accepted beliefs, don't you agree? like this popular myth propagated by a dominant section of indian academia:
.....it was OBCs, and not Brahmins or Baniyas, who routinely brutalised rural Dalits.


spot the non-brahmin..

..in this list. yes, at least half of them are brahmins. a kind commenter had suggested after i'd pointed out how many bharat ratnas are brahmins:
I feel having a list of people who are denied the award/position due to their class/caste will help to see the reality better.
another commenter had also offered a very logical explanation of why so many jnanpith awardees are brahmins. if a nation is defined in a certain way, all things national would also agree with that definition, right? we can't expect mules to win horse races. or even qualify for them.


prof. gadde swarup's comments

professor gadde swarup, in an interesting comment on my previous post , says:
Caste questions and farmers' problems seem to be two different problems. The first may be solved in a few hundred years but it seems to me that the second may not be solvable. In any case, may be it is simpler to discuss the problems seperately.
please note two things:

1. my previous post was not about caste. it doesn't even mention caste, or any variant, or any term derived from caste. not even in the tags. am i being slotted away?

2. the scale applied, not consciously i am sure, to measure the problems (the caste problem and farmers' problem): i feel it is inappropriate. i think the act of measurement itself is wrong- caste is being slotted away.

(please also read prof. swarup's second comment explaining his first). moving on to the suggestion at the end: In any case, may be it is simpler to discuss the problems seperately. i hadn't discussed caste in my previous post, but i admit it was on my mind: the two issues can't be separated. ask p.sainath:
Typically, the forward caste will till at the head of the water, the middle caste will till in the middle water, and the tail water will be left to the lower caste and the Dalits. Now in Rajasthan this problem does not arise, since there is no water, no river in the border areas. So how is the positioning of the Dalit basti determined in Rajasthan? In all other parts of the country where the river water runs north to south, the Dalit basti will be in the south. Why is it on the east and northeast there? This happens because Dalits work on leather, which stinks and our sacred nostrils cannot be offended by this menial activity, so we place them outside, so the smell of carcasses and tanning does not enter the village.
that was an extract from an interview with sainath that i had quoted in this post. i'd also referred to other articles in that post to make my point that caste does play a role in the making of policy (and its implementation ) that impacts agriculture and rural india: the clear bias towards famers with larger holdings, easier access to irrigation, inputs, extension and market support and generally all other public goods/services (read: upper caste) is clearly evident, though couched in much egalitarian phraseology. i'd also written on how large irrigation projects benefit mostly a small section of rural india (around 10-20%) in one of my posts on otherindia (now dead?).

two: in my recent series of posts on agriculture (please check this post for links to other posts in the series) and elsewhere (check tags: agriculture, famers etc) i'd pointed out , directly and not so directly, how policy on agriculture is very narrowly framed in india. to sum up, roughly, it has two components: 1. food security. 2. through support to the productive category of famers i'd referred to in the previous paragraph. it doesn't support farmers, broadly, or rual india, broadly. policy is definitely not framed from a holistic point of view- the productive farmers are agriculture are rural india. i'd referred to this paternalistic attitude of policy makers in this post and also in the post on otherindia i'd referred to earlier (here's a link to a link to the post and here's the title of the post: 'bottled up in agriculture'.. i don't know whether it's cached somewhere. i didn't cross-post it here).

three: most of the farmers who have committed suicide are obcs and dalits. sainath had mentioned this somewhere, and other journalists have talked about it. but not explicitly or in depth. they wanted to keep things simpler, i guess.

p.s: on being slotted away, there is an interesting post on the issue on 'double consciousness' (thanks, jack)..


sharad pawar, farmers' suicides and other obscene jokes

in 2004, the upa government rode into power on dead farmers' shoulders. on the one hand, you'd sainath and other sensitive journalists who were bringing in heart-rending stories from the countryside, and on the other hand, you'd sensitive politicians like sonia gandhi actually touring villages in andhra pradesh and distributing relief to the families of the farmers who had died. and bringing up the middle and the considerable rear of the people's movement orchestrating this sudden national upsurge of indignation, wailing and matam were all kinds of political and social workers, activists, writers, journalists (and bloggers too), leaders from organizations reflecting all shades of political opinion slightly left of the vishwa hindu parishad's. you'd think they really meant it, that their indignation was genuine.
"Sharad Pawar has done nothing for farmers in Maharashtra farmers suicides still continue. He is only doing a lot for cricket. He should not forget that he is not a sports minister he is the agriculture minister of this country, " Singh said.
when amar singh, who according to most samajvadis, is an obscene joke on samajvad in the country, feels bold enough to start questioning the credentials of the u.p.a government- what's wrong with the genuine samajvadis who worked so hard to bring the u.pa., into power? why don't they notice that the emperor is running stark naked around the cricket stadia of the world?

until 2004, most of the suicides had happened in andhra pradesh and a few places in punjab, karnataka, kerala and maharashtra. since 2004, they have spread to most of the country- the numbers have actually increased in andhra pradesh (as many suicides in the last three years as in the preceding nine years), karnataka, kerala, punjab..and the contagion is fast claiming new territories: gujarat, rajasthan, chhattisgarh, bundelkhand in uttar pradesh, madhya pradesh.. and most starvation deaths in west bengal, orissa and bihar go unreported.

what has the government of the indignant been doing? it has been saving harbhajan singh from being dubbed a racist, among other things..like..um... i wrote the last line five minutes ago (and i'd scratched a considerable portion of my scalp free of dandruff during that period). what has sharad pawar been doing? what has manmohan singh been doing? what has sainath been doing? what has prakash karat been doing? what has rajasekhar reddy been doing? what has sonia gandhi been doing? what has aruna roy been doing? what has jayati ghosh been doing? what has...

agricultural credit has been increased to 2,00,000 crores a year (from around 100,000 crores), according to the government. ask the banks- most of the increase is rolling over of old credit. nrega has been introduced in over 300 hundred of the poorest districts in the country- the government's own figures say less than 3% of those who had been issued job cards until now have received employment for the promised hundred days. and people have been given the right to information- an educated applicant, backed by a powerful media baron, had to wait nearly three months to get the copy of a government order from the chief minister's office in hyderabad. and in a country where more than 60% of students in primary school drop out by the time they reach high school (which means more than 80% don't finish high school)- what kind of an obscene joke on indian democracy is this rti?

now, let me try and answer a question i had asker earlier in this post: what's wrong with the genuine samajvadis who worked so hard to bring the u.p.a., into power? why don't they notice that the emperor is running stark naked around the cricket stadia of the world?

the answer is very simple: they thrive on power too. no, don't point to the austere lifestyles of some of these folks- i'd not like to be told again about aruna roy's abstinence or sainath's penances..or sonia gandhi's sacrifices or the struggles of lakhs of ordinary activists etc. i'm talking about power that enables you to tell the ignorant masses: love me, love my rabid dog.


the mughals were better

320 years ago, aurangzeb laid siege to golkonda and waited for nine long months to reclaim his divine right to determine everyone's rights in telangana. for the last four days, senior congress leaders from telangana have been camping in delhi, waiting for sonia gandhi, congress president, to grant them an audience. no, not to renegotiate with her and bring back at least some of the sovereignty that aurangzeb had spirited away but to reassure her of their undying loyalty if she grants statehood to telangana. for the people, obviously, it wouldn't mean much- definitely not what abul hasan qutb shah had staked his life for. it wouldn't mean more freedom to decide the course of their own lives. but for the courtiers, of course, it would mean license. an exclusive concession over telangana. in the good old days, most successful politicians were very good at this kind of behind the scenes intrigue, skullduggery...obsequiousness..abul hasan was one of the rare exceptions. so, aurangzeb respected him enough to come knocking at his door to seek his audience. and it also looks like aurangzeb respected people's sovereignty more- he knew he'd have to wage war to grab it.


mr.thackeray shows people without a place their place

india tries you very hard..some images stick in your mind, despite the fact that you think you've grown inured, hardened. like this recent news clip which showed pigs tearing apart a new-born baby outside a hospital. or this image from just yesterday: a group of youths slapping around a street vendor in mumbai. kicked basket, strewn samosas, slapped vendor- each of them worth as much as the baby.

think of the others who were shown their place- taxi drivers, scrawny passengers on equally decrepit local trains, paan wallahs. think of their place. in god's and mankind's scheme of things. what place?


chet'ta rejo: 30 hindus, 1547 others

spotted an extract from a press release from rakesh sharma (of final solution) here. mr.sharma has just released two new films- this is about one of them (chet'ta rejo):
The back cover of the CD itself contextualizes the film – the saffronisation of the Dalit-OBC population and its consequent plight! The film looks specifically at the patterns of arrests and litigation since 2002. A majority of those charged with rioting, arson, murder etc are either tribals or Dalits and OBCs. An analysis of those arrested from 32 police stations in Ahmedabad suggests that of the 1577 detainees, only 30-odd were upper caste! Are these foot soldiers victims too? Cynically recruited, then discarded, left to rot in jails, what do the ‘perpetrators of the violence feel today about the VHP and the BJP?

The film has several personal portraits and conversations. Among the points that emerge:

1. 6-8 families of S-6 passengers who died speak of how they were told people were going for a picnic tour, certainly not any karseva, that the VHP-BJP exploited their tragedy for electoral gains in 2002, how ever since then no one has come to help, how monies raised in their name never reached them…and how some of them who spoke in public about it have been threatened by the VHP!

2. VHP made tall promises to help the detained and the injured Hindutva cadre, but barring some rations and monetary help in the first month or two, not much came. The VHP/BJP combine simply vanished. A telling story is Kanti and Deepak’s account from Gomtipur - both shot by the police, both appealed to the BJP for help (incl the CM) but got nothing. When they went to Togadia’s own Dhanvantri hospital for operations/ treatment, they were turned away, asked to bring a deposit of Rs 50,000 first!

3. Cops don’t arrest the upper castes. They come and take away Dalits/OBCs - any men they can find in the area. The men are normally told to come along for haziri but then booked formally. Women in such families speak of the subsequent harassment and hardships.

4. Dalits ask why violence is engineered in their areas, and not in the posh upper caste areas? They ask a series of searching, probing questions and offer their own analyses throughout the film.

5. Dalit elders speak of how the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya doesn’t mean much to them, as they can not even enter the mandir in their own villages - upper castes prevent them from doing so till today!

7. An OBC Hindu boy and a Muslim boy, both friends, used to play cricket together in Behrampura. During the riots, both lost their right hands to bombs during the riots! The film ends with both of them appealing to the youth not to join such parties or get involved in such violence as no one lifts a finger to help while it is them and their families who will suffer forever.

The overall message that emerges through a range of voices - violence and politics of hate destroys the Dalit-OBC-Muslim communities; it is best to stay away from parties that preach hate.

my earlier posts on gujarat are here: [1], [2] and [3].


telangana for idiots, of idiots..

i wish i could've said telangana is the opium of the masses. but nobody knows for sure it is so- the more fortunate, in terms of education etc., are more vocal on it. and so vocal that they have managed to drown genuine debates on development in the state in the last three years or so. i think the congress likes that: the congress has thrived whenever the focus of the public in any region (read punjab, kashmir, northeast etc) got diverted to emotive issues. and the parivar likes emotive issues too. there is another thing that congress and the parivar both like: smaller states. the pseudo-logic that both together have developed runs like this: it is easier to administer smaller states. don't ask 'how many districts in chhattisgarh does the government of chhattisgarh actually administer?'

the truth is that both the congress and the parivar find it increasingly difficult to survive in large states. it's much easier to arrive at 'power sharing' arrangements in states that have around a hundred assembly seats (witness goa). it's ok even if you manage to win only 25 seats or so- you'll always find two three 'regional parties' and enough 'independents' 'like-minded' enough to share power with you. and at the centre: all dissenting voices would have no choice but to cling to one or the other national alliance, headed of course by the congress or the parivar.

and don't mention federalism and other nonsense: what does it matter if to keep all indians together you've to break up linguistic minorities?
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