25/09/09

this old idea of india

smokescreen's interesting post offering a novel solution to link the indian nation. don't understand why 1) we need to link the indian nation through 1/2/3 languages, 2) if it is a nation, why does it have to be linked through synthetic policy solutions?

why not chuck the whole idea of building india along the lines of a conventional nation, and let the people link to each other? an unfinished, but very interesting, discussion with smokescreen and the recent debates around official/link languages, in the media and elsewhere, reminded me of this old article which gives you an idea of how small (when compared with the total population of any given state) migration from one state to other states even in the worst of times is:
Inter-state labour migration is an important feature of the Indian economy. Most of this movement has been from the most populous and poorest states with net in-migration being higher for the more developed states. Gujarat and Bihar provide an interesting contrast in terms of migration. The population entering Bihar was 364,337 and that exiting the state was more than three times higher at 1,226,839. (Census 1991) In contrast, the in-coming population for Gujarat was double that of Bihar at 716,190 and the out-going population 305,738, a quarter of the population leaving Bihar.
bihar's total population was 8.66 crores in 1991 and migrants from that state were less than 2% of the total population of the state. and bihar, let me remind you, has a long history of out-migration.

most indians prefer to stay or migrate within their own states. it seems to me, what they need are tools to help them connect, or link, with people in their own states first. and india later. should policy, in areas like education for instance, be directed towards helping the most privileged sections (of educated migrants) of that 2%, at best, of india's total population? and i'm not even going to talk about the seasonal nature of a large proportion of all inter-state migration.

18/09/09

a step back

PATNA: Rajput ‘paratha’, Bhumihar ‘poori’, Brahmin ‘kachauri’, Yadav ‘chapati’. Ever heard of these cuisines? These are allegedly served at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), Muzaffarpur to the medicos. Here a 'thali' is identified with the caste of the customer.
why don't they go a step ahead, or take a step back, and serve 'education' that is identified with the caste of the student?

16/09/09

won't you come, mate?

in the indravelli hills
a squad is born
won't you come, mate?

every squad
gave birth to seventy hands
won't you come, mate?

to every tree the hands tied pots
and to every pot they tied the landlords' heads
won't you come, mate?

look! watching the vote yatras and the promises
mother india wept
and in the tears
mother gave birth
to the sun of rebellion
won't you come, mate?

in the singareni coal pits+
ants are born
and as every ant moves daggers are born
and every dagger gives birth to workers' powers
and those powers spill the contractors' blood
won't you come, mate?

in the dandakaranya
the kondhs'* jatara**
on hungry stomachs play the drums of protest
watch how they march to delhi
let's hand over delhi fort to the tillers
won't you come, mate?

that is my translation of a song written, composed and performed by one of my favourite folk poets/bards, vangapandu prasad rao of the jana natya mandali. i haven't been able to find the original lyrics, so had to jot down the lines while listening to the song- would update, edit this when i find the original lyrics. there'd be some lapses- i request readers to tell me about them. you can listen to the song here (first song in the list). it's a version of the song recorded for a film- so, naturally, it uses more instruments and orchestration than vangapandu, as he is popularly known, normally uses in his street/public performances. actually, he only uses a couple of intruments most times- the ghunghroos on his feet and a madiga dappu, perhaps.

* kondhs: he calls them kondollu (people of the hills)- he is obviously referring to the gonds of indravelli (adilabad district, which is adjacent to bastar etc) who are often called by that name by the plainspeople. adilabad and bastar, and other regions of the dandakaranya, have been the loci of many adivasi rebellions in the past 200 years. and also of brutal repression by the colonial and brahminized states. indravelli had been in the news in the early 80s for a tragic incident that occurred on 20th april, 1981- hundreds of gond villagers, part of a large gathering, a peaceful protest rally against atrocities and exploitation (by non-adivasi traders, landlords, babus, policemen and other outsiders), were gunned down brutally by the security forces (official estimates quote a lower figure).

[ here's a link to a news story, in telugu, on indravelli. and here's another account, in english].

**jAtara: fair, religious festival etc.

+ singareni coal pits: the singareni coal mines are spread over adilabad and a couple of other north telangana districts.

15/09/09

old wine in a modern bottle

upper caste boy can't marry lower caste girl, so he drowns himself in drink. people say that isn't rational. and they usually refer to the boy's actions or reactions. and this modern day take on that story says the same thing: the boy is weak. modern is to avoid discussing irrational constraints on girls and boys?

13/09/09

the doon school of egalitarianism

Karan Thapar: Let me question that. India is a poor country. I put it to you that this order of money could be better spent if you expand education, health and sanitation or if you use it to feed the 40 per cent of Indian children who are chronically malnourished.
right. let's check what percentage of indian children were malnourished last year. or the year before that. or ten years ago. or twenty years ago. or as far back as 1947.

11/09/09

new, rich wisdom on poverty

New Delhi, Sept. 9: For the first time, caste and religion may help determine whether a family should receive poverty benefits if an experts panel’s suggestions are accepted by the government.

The criteria for inclusion in the below-poverty-line (BPL) list ought to be eased for Muslims, Dalits, tribals, the Most Backward Castes and the Other Backward Classes, the committee set up by the rural development ministry has recommended.

at last. somebody seems to have knocked some much needed sense into a small section of planners and policy makers in delhi. measuring poverty and deprivation in purely rupee terms has long been a favorite ploy of this brahminized state. in a country where 93% of the workforce can never claim access to a) regular jobs or b) regular incomes, unless one's parent/s held a job in the organized sector or went to a university (and built a transferable medical, legal or other professional practice) , or left urban immovable property or other assets like bank deposits, stocks, business goodwill etc, or passed on canal irrigated land, how can incomes be the sole, major criterion in measuring poverty? especially when most of india's national income itself is, at best, a very loose estimate? when the government doesn't really know how people make or don't make money, how can it confidently say that it can measure how much money they're making or not making?

what proportion of the brahminized classes, working in the unorganized sector, don't fit the above criteria (listed as exceptions to (b) above)?

some misguided politicians, including people who should know better (like mayawati) very often try to convey the picture that poverty and deprivation are as pervasive among the so-called upper castes of india as among those lower down the caste hierarchy or the minorities. policies proposing 10% to !4% reservations of jobs and seats in educational institutions (of available jobs and seats) for the poor among the upper castes are being mooted.

i had asked this question in the past, more than once: what proportion of the brahminized upper caste population in india is poor? if the poor among the upper castes constitute 10-14% of the total population in the country, then more than 40-93% of them are poor (making them the poorest section among the indian population, in the latter instance). because no reasonable estimate puts their total numbers above 15-25% of the total population of the country.

if poverty or deprivation were to be measured in clearly unmeasurable rupee terms, i wonder what kind of reservations or other benefits the poor among the dalits or muslims should demand? twice their proportion in the total population? or three or four times that, just like the brahminized upper castes? if they followed the example of the brahminized classes, percentage of reservations for only the poor among those sections would be substantially higher (or twice/thrice as high) than the proportion of all dalits or muslims in the total population.

i had said in this post:

seventy percent of indians have little or no basic reading/writing skills. and almost all of them belong to the lower castes, but no one involved in policy-making ever acknowledges the fact that almost all of them belong to the lower castes- euphemisms such as the poor, people below the poverty line etc., serve as effective purdahs. researchers go to great lengths to take the sectarian sting out of the truth, to purify bad statistics with good taste. 80% of india lives on less than a dollar a day. what does that tell you? nothing.
i am glad someone out there agrees with me.

08/09/09

on born leaders

The Congress is worried that if it chooses Jaganmohan Reddy as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, the Opposition may get a chance to bring corruption charges against him, which will damage the party in the long run.
jaganmohan reddy wasn't a big businessman before his father became the chief minister in 2004. ahmed ali shaik of ibn says:

Jagan started a power plant in Karnataka in June 2001 with an investment of about Rs.30 crore. Jagan claimed that the plant became almost operational even before his father became chief minister in May 2004. But his career took an upward turn after YSR became the Chief Minister. Jagan floated several subsidiary companies like Caramel Asia, Raghuram Cements, Jagathi Publications and Indira Television. Whenever he needed money, he floated a subsidiary company; allocated shares of that company at a premium to big corporates and raised several hundred crores.

In a very short time, he achieved what others failed to achieve in over three decades. He started a Telugu newspaper and from the day one itself he had 24 editions and is now reportedly selling over one million copies daily. On Feb.24, he also launched a 24-hour Telugu news channel. In less than four years, he has set up businesses in many states in the country and operates in energy, infrastructure, real estate, cement, media and other sectors. Presently, all his businesses put together are worth nearly Rs.20, 000 crore.

as ali observes, jagan mohan reddy became so successful after his father became chief minister that his worth has increased by over 200 times in less than five years.

this is what i find funny: while jaganmohan reddy was growing 200 times in less than five years, in full public eye, liberal media in india was churning out reams and reams of print on how mayawati was wasting, in their view, a few hundred crores of public money on public parks which in her view were for the public good. you've every right to dispute her idea of public good, but consider a couple of issues first: everything that mayawati spent would be checked and rechecked by publicly appointed auditors and her government would have to account for every paisa. and the public will reject her in the next elections if their idea of public good doesn't match hers. two, if the nregs which focuses on creating work, digging-trenches-and-filling-trenches kind of work basically, for the poor without focussing much on building assets is an acceptable public works programme, as projected by the neo-keynesians among the ruling classes, why are mayawati's parks, which also provide employment and create real assets (unlike the nregs), less so?

coming back to jaganmohan reddy, ali also notices the media's disinterest in him:

You may be surprised as to how this story of unprecedented success was never reported by any of the business newspapers and channels in the last few years. Surprisingly, this young gentleman never wanted publicity for his success. Infact, he was never accessible to the media. He never spoke to the media about his business plans nor did he make his achievements public.
well, mayawati doesn't seek the media's attention much either, but for entirely different reasons- from her first, very short, term in office until now, the media had always looked at her with unrelenting suspicion, smelling a scam behind her every action. but jaganmohan reddy was allegedly milking his father's influence, and the state's coffers not-so-indirectly (most of his corporate investors were getting huge contracts from the state government for the irrigation projects, on which nearly 50,000 crores have been spent in the last five years, being built across the state) all this while, building a 20,000 crore empire- how could the media have missed it?

and now the state cabinet has passed a resolution that it wants jaganmohan reddy as the chief minister, most of the mlas have signed a petition to sonia gandhi, congress workers across the state are holding dharnas and generally indulging in a lot of congress-style dramebaazi to tell the public how badly they, the public, want jaganmohan reddy as chief minister.

the state congress president was violently booed out of a condolence meeting that he had convened yesterday because he'd suggested that there could be other aspirants for the post. one of the few backward class leaders in the top echelons of the state congress outfit- what was he thinking? how could he have even thought that he could aspire to be a chief minister in a state that had never seen any backward class minister holding any important portfolio until ntr came to power a couple of decades ago ?

most of the media too is busy manufacturing consent, projecting jaganmohan reddy as the right chief minister. despite the fact that the local media knows more about his shady deals than the uninterested national media. so the state congress president, unless the hindu gods who had ages ago assigned a certain place to people of his kind and the congress high command for its own mysterious reasons together decide otherwise, has very few chances of becoming the chief minister. or making rs.20,000 crores and expecting the media to look the other way.

06/09/09

new dream

for having skinned the five spirits
by driving a nail into the sky
another into the patala
and soaking the hide in the seven seas you
deserve those sun and moon gods
as sandals for your feet!
in hunger
or in humiliation
head bowed
you stitch
your skin into shoes
grandfather!
i dream
that this world
should turn into a strap
and kiss
your big toe.

my translation of dr. enDloori sudhakar's kotta kala from 'kaitunakala danDem', a collection of madiga poetry.

05/09/09

ignoble merit

anoop puts it eloquently:
Indian academicians and intellectuals are not ‘lazy’ but highly incompetent as they are the product of a society where merit is at premium. A caste-ridden society, where the caste interest and caste-pride take precedence over everything, can never produce genuine/objective scholars and academicians.
it isn't the first time that someone from a marginalized community has expressed that view. dr.ambedkar had very patiently tried to explain how caste makes a society inefficient, quite a while ago. every time a young student from a similar background walks into an indian university you can be certain that that realization would strike him at least once during his stay there.

why doesn't it strike those with merit, as certainly, or as frequently?

the nobel is one popular yardstick for measuring 'merit' among the brahminized classes. but i don't think they ever bother to take a look at how nations one-hundredth the size of india, in terms of population- like austria, norway, sweden, switzerland, belgium- have won more nobels than india, even when we include all the non-indians, also-indians and once-indians in the short...list of indian laureates.

those nations are older? well, austria, norway, sweden, switzerland and belgium still bagged more nobels (8, 6, 17, 14 and 5 respectively) than india (4) after 1947.

01/09/09

wasn't it from your blows...

sirs!
weren't we of the superstructure until yesterday
how would we have any base
without any foundation
how can there be any structure
true!

until now, building everything for you
became our only occupation
leaving us with no building of our own

sirs!
look at that
marxism, ambedkarism
the ride on twin bullocks has begun
our madiga dappu had turned cold
having drummed the background score for you all this while
today, with reddening eyes it has turned warm again
readying to compose your funeral beat
wasn't it from your blows, sirs,
that we learnt how to retaliate?
the time will come
the time has to come
saved, like the sharpness of a knife,
the resentment so intently saved in our bellies
isn't it only now, sirs-
that it is gathering strength?
we are boycotting your courts
where those who should be in cages
sit on thrones and deliver judgments
the gun might be yours
but the hands that shall press the trigger are ours
we proudly declare!

my translation of the poem 'meeru koTTina debbala nunchE...' by kO.pra. found that in a recent collection of poetry by madiga poets called 'kaitunakala danDem'.
 
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