how food security feeds on hunger

sainath says:
The only PDS that will work is a universal one. It is only in those States that have the closest thing to a universal system — Kerala and Tamil Nadu — where the PDS has functioned best.
food security is a goal. a universal pds is an approach. please note: an approach. calling it the only approach that will work is like saying power flows through the barrel of a gun. that reflects an autocratic vision, the approach of those who have always wielded power and guns through history. the approach of those who always knew better, as compared with the mass of lesser humanity who could only wield labour and sweat.

i'm all for a universal pds if it improves even by 5% the access of the labouring masses to food. but will it? a few questions that i asked myself, and the answers i could come up with:

* does universalizing the pds decrease food insecurity?
a. the pds in punjab is barely patronized and yet the 'level of food insecurity' is the same as in kerala, which has a universal system.
* is it the level of foodgrains production which determines the level of food insecurity?
a. punjab produces 6-8 times more wheat and rice than its 2.4 crore population (2001) needs, but kerala produces only 30% as much rice as it needs. but both states suffer from the same levels of food insecurity.
* is it the amount of subsidy per unit (of rations) that helps?
a. tamil nadu is supplying rice at rs.1 to the poor, whereas kerala doesn't have any such schemes. the level of food insecurity in tamil nadu is higher than in kerala.
* do per capita incomes determine the levels of food insecurity in different states?
a. maharashtra has a better per capita income than tamil nadu but its 'level of food insecurity' is higher. and both those states have better per capita incomes than kerala which of course has a lower level of food insecurity.
* so what helps food security?
a. hard to say. you could even say, fewer hindus in the state's population would help, and you would be right. punjab, jammu & kashmir and kerala, which have large non-hindu populations have the best levels of food security. the absence of hindus, or fewer hindus, helps those states create more egalitarian social environments, perhaps?
* and?
a. fewer castes would also help, i think. improves social cohesion. andhra pradesh, karnataka and maharashtra etc have larger number of castes than punjab, kerala or jammu & kashmir.
* tamil nadu also has a large number of castes but it's better than a.p., karnataka in food security. why?

..and so on. a writer who advocates 'the only' approaches is the closest thing to a suicide bomber in the intellectual world, in my view. or the george bush of the world of media: you're either with him, or against him. or, you're either okay with his approach, or against food security. food security depends on many factors, and i'm not even sure food security is the only approach to solving hunger. because the issue is hunger and starvation, and not food security. not to those who are hungry.

food security is a goal for those who nurse nationalist ideals: those who subscribe to a certain set of cultural values and for whom the promotion of those values means a great deal. a great deal more than the issue of hunger itself. but it means nothing to an individual whose family is hungry. why should his need serve someone else's goal?


the sordid mutiny

a few weeks ago, a private school in bengaluru sent out a circular to parents warning them of the vile things the lower classes could inflict on their kids if the right to education bill was passed. the circular warned the parents:
Kindly do not ignore this circular as it affects your child's future directly

Any child will have to be allowed into school and share the classroom with your child. Eminent psychologists have said that this will be detrimental to the psyche of all the children.

Once this Act is enforced, another child could beat up your child, smoke on the campus, misbehave with a girl or a teacher and the school will have to watch helplessly.
a few days later, i came to know about another rebellion brewing in urban india: meter jam. what are they about?
A bunch of eager-minded folks who think a lot and do as much as they can.
Sitting idle, commenting on internet forums or complaining forever are THINGS WE DON'T DO.
So, we're doing right now what we feel needs to be done, hoping for your complete support!
finally, the marginalized middle classes seem to be standing up against the lower class oppressors. what will they plot next? a campaign against exploiting domestic workers and malingering child labourers? one hasn't seen such revolutionary fervour among the young since the youth for equality movement.


the abc of food security and sustained hunger

a and b produce food. a, b, and c consume food. a owns land so he is more secure than b who works on a's land. so to help b, primarily, the government buys food from a, and supplies that food to a, b and c at subsidized rates. the government has a hundred rupee budget to perform both services: buy food from a at prices that'd leave him with a certain margin of profit or return, and subsidize the food to such an extent that a, b and c can buy it.

if the government tries to pay a more, say seventy five of the 100 rupee budget, it'd have less money for the subsidies, so the prices would remain high, out of reach of b, who'd have to buy less food. and if it buys food at lower prices, it'd have more money for the subsidies, but now both b and a would not be able to buy the food because the lower prices for farmers would mean less returns for a and much lower wages for b.

food security isn't as simple as jean dreze or aruna roy or p.sainath would like you to believe. because they're neither a nor b. they're c, people who merely consume food, and are not involved in the production of food, like the wretched a and b.

if the government has a total budget of a 1,000 rupees, if you look beyond the food budget of rs.100, more than half of the rest goes towards keeping c happy and secure. so, if the government pays more to the farmers to buy food, thereby spending less on subsidies, or spends more on the subsidies, and thereby paying less to the farmers, it doesn't really matter to c, because he doesn't depend on agriculture for his livelihood. for c, food and talk would always be cheap.

jean dreze or aruna roy or p.sainath would always tell you how important 'food security' (or their version of it) is. they'd also tell you how indians are consuming less, per capita, than in 80s and 70s. it's quite possible that indians were consuming more, per capita, in the 80s, 70s and even 50s because the public distribution system expanded slowly through those decades, catering only to urban india mostly in the first 3-4 decades after 1942 when it was started, and achieved its current breadth and reach only after the 70s and 80s. so, people were eating more when there was no food-security ensuring public distribution system around. that significant fact should make sainath etc., pause a little and think, don't you think?

is food security as simple as education is for some urban parents? stop the cable connection and the kids would get an education?

[this piece of jnu gyan got me started on this post. please read, it might help some hungry indians starve more.]


a pledge to stop suicides or a promise to keep dying for telangana?

students across telangana took a pledge against committing suicide, recently. as you can see in the video, they were very ably guided by their teachers and professors, people actually leading the separatist movement.

psychologists will tell you: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

none of those leaders have ever given the impression that telangana is a temporary problem. in all their writing, speeches and other mobilizing efforts, they've always made it very clear that telangana is definitely not a temporary problem. should those teachers be leading a campaign to stop student suicides? please read what the news report says:
As part of this campaign, JAC chairman M Kodandaram on Wednesday administered a pledge to the students of Osmania University that they will not resort to suicides but would continue to take active part in the fight for separate Telangana state. [emphasis mine].
were the professors trying to seek a pledge to stop suicides or extract a promise to keep dying?

i have several issues with the way this campaign has been taken up: it's first and foremost a publicity exercise, a political ploy to keep the students in a sustained state of unrest and tension. because it's the students who can keep the fires burning, even by literally burning themselves.

a change of environment is what health professionals would suggest to people living in stressful environments. should the professors and activists have even been around when the students were taking the pledge?

and the media, in its own bumbling ways, has been adding more fuel to the fire by being very judgmental. suicide is cowardice, they tell the students. and the professors extend that argument by saying: you should live and fight for your cause. have been checking several websites offering advice on how to help people with suicidal tendencies and all of them agree: never be judgmental.


yet another savanur

now, outside the vidhan soudha in bengaluru. a more plush, yet much more appropriate setting to stage such a protest.

brahminized india might think the stink will die down as more and more protesters adopt such means (notice how the newspaper very coyly refers to shit as 'faecal matter' now, unlike the tone of shock seeping through the reports of the earlier incident), and the media would stop noticing, one day. allowing you to reclaim your caste-earned privilege of forgetting.

imagine such a protest outside an office building, outside a favourite cinema, club or mcdonalds. or at the most crowded traffic junction during rush hour. or anypublicwhere. if one of the most imposing buildings in the so-called silicon valley of india could almost always trigger the memory of a bucket of shit in your mind from now (at least for a few, or many), just as jallianwala bagh will always remind one of the massacre, imagine what associations all those other places could excrete in the future.

the manual scavenger is never allowed to forget shit, unlike everyone else on earth. you might think he's trying to take away your liberty to do so now. but no. he's questioning your right to inequality: go ahead, live off my inequality.


telangana development forum? or reddy-velama development forum?

from amitabh bachchan to pratap bhanu mehta, we've seen how strongly the brahminized classes hate the idea of a caste census. now, here's a telangani intellectual (a label anyone who has spent a few months abroad might be anointed with in telugu land) who's been at the very forefront of the 'people's struggle' for telangana (mostly, from the strategic position of his home in the united states) speaking his mind on how a caste census will turn india into afghanistan:
India has a large population with limited resources and it is important to elect the brightest leaders. Sixty-three years after Independence we have no dearth of leaders in all segments of our society. Just look at the NRIs who have come to America from many backgrounds. We all will suffer if we elect leaders with no integrity and vision. India needs lots of reform to bring accountability. We have to demand the legislator family must reside in the constituency, and their children attend the local schools, treated in local hospitals. This will bring a dramatic change in rural development. We should also introduce Primary elections to select the party candidate to chop off the Political Boss power. We need many more reforms like this. But if we follow Prof. Kancha Illaiah’s approach, our country will become like Afghanistan where instead of war-lords, we will be ruled by caste-lords. [emphasis mine]
that was part of a comment by madhu k. reddy, long time president and leader of the telangana development forum, on an article written by kancha ilaiah (Who's afraid of caste census') on the caste census, saying: 'Let all castes — not just OBCs — be counted for strengthening our democratic system.' there are more comments, and much more of mr.reddy's wisdom on how a caste census would divide india on display there (also check another reader's comment: 'If Madhu is a Non-Reddy, was there any scope he would have become president of the organisation?').

most separatists have often found kancha ilaiah's articles annoying (one commenter on one of my previous posts had remarked on, something like, how eccentric or unstable ilaiah had become). but why doesn't madhu k.reddy tell the dalitbahujan supporters of separation what he actually thinks about the caste census, the caste system etc? and especially his views on who should be considered the 'brightest leaders'? a little honesty on his part would help a lot of obc and dalit youngsters committing suicide in droves to stop and think a little before they take the extreme step.

not just madhu k.reddy, but i think it'd be a great idea if another reddy, prof.kodandaram reddy of the telangana political joint action committee, and the most visible face of separatist politicians and foremost velama leader in telangana today, k.chandrashekhar rao of the telangana rashtra samiti, explained to the countless dalitbahujan groups involved in the movement their real views on such issues as the caste census, the women's reservations bill etc etc..

lastly, here's a video in which mr.reddy exhorts young telanganis to participate in the separatist movement by joining the tdf-india units in every district, mandal etc:

mr.reddy had, according to an nri friend, inspired many youngsters to join the tdf movement. but sadly, my friend didn't think mr.reddy's own children were inspired enough.

p.s. i'd written a mail expressing my views on the separatist movement to mr.reddy nearly four years ago. he didn't respond, but you can read more about it here.


63 years of savanurs

wipe some savanur with the flag. because the brahminical narrative that links 'modern' india to an ancient 'civilization' is good enough for only that.

in karnataka now, or in telangana or andhra pradesh (now gripped with a stronger love for mother india than any time in the past, despite other differences across regions) later, or across india, expect many more savanurs in the future.


yet another reason why india needs manual scavengers

the united nations general assembly declared water and sanitation a human right just a couple of weeks ago.

most of the humane world had already come to recognize drinking water and basic sanitation as 'human rights obligations related to water and sanitation' long before the u.n. had endorsed it. if the u.n. says 'an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and a total of more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation' it must mean a large part of the world (of nearly 7 billion people) is already fulfilling its 'human rights obligations related to water and sanitation'. as for the rest of the hardly human world, nearly half of those '884 million people who lack access to safe drinking water' and nearly a third of the 'more than 2.6 billion people' who 'do not have access to basic sanitation' in the world must be living in india.

on the count of violating 'human rights obligations related to water and sanitation', india is the world's biggest offender. it isn't that india's ruling classes steal all the water meant for drinking and sanitation needs of over three-fourths of its population. it's just that they don't think much about people who, in their view, are less than human. they need to be taught how to be human before they're granted any rights.


several reasons why india needs manual scavengers

aruna roy had trashed sanitation for the poor in the article i'd discussed in my previous post. but check her views in this 3 year old tehelka report on manual scavenging:
INDIA HAS the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market, a stock market that has grown 25 percent in five months, and, for a few days in November, the world’s richest man. Aruna Roy, veteran social activist, is unimpressed: “India can forget its boasts, forget its 9.5 percent growth. This country employs 12 to 13 lakh Dalits to clean up human waste. If we can’t eradicate this, all other achievements are meaningless.” [emphasis mine]
now scroll further down the report:
MOSES ACKNOWLEDGES there are obstacles to navigate: “We need economic alternatives and rehabilitation for the scavengers. In March 2006, the Supreme Court ordered that the Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation establish schemes for the economic rehabilitation of safai karamcharis, and announce the funds allocated. So far this has not been done.” The technological problem poses another obstacle. 82 percent of the population has no access to sanitation facilities; in rural areas dry latrines are seen as the only alternative to sewers. [emphasis mine].
you could say there are more than 820 million reasons why india needs manual scavengers. starting with the need to achieve 9.5% growth to the need to produce more and more ramon magsaysay award winning 'grassroots' activists.


one more reason why india needs manual scavengers

no food, no shit. so, food is always a bigger problem than shit, or how it shall be disposed of. that's another reason why india needs manual scavengers: so that the rulers can take care of bigger problems. and not just the rulers, but also those who check how the rulers are doing, can go on looking at the bigger problem of how the rulers are doing. check how aruna roy dismisses all the developmentarian nonsense about basic sanitation for the poor as pure shit:
The greatest apprehension was about the small but vital details of day-to-day living. Inevitably there was the fear of the toilet. Thoughts of bowel movements dominated the day like the hum of a bee. Perhaps, as my friend Dunu Roy said, our major pre- occupation became a development priority. It was not until I was toilet trained and understood my own fallacy that I empathised with the irate Naurti, who said the toilet was the least of her priorities. What she wanted was a minimum wage and employment.
have you ever met anyone on a street who requested you to lend/donate a couple of rupees so that she can go take a crap at the nearest sulabh shauchalaya?

of course naurti would prefer a minimum wage and employment. posited in that fashion, the always current need to eat against the always future need to take a crap, who'd vote for a clean, private toilet over a minimum wage?

but why would anyone who has had access to such privileges as clean, private toilets accept such crap as working for wages lower than minimum? once you taste that kind of privileges, you start thinking of them as your rights. the indian ruling classes understand that clearly: no basic sanitation means lower wages, always.

another reason why india needs manual scavengers

from ysr to kcr, most leaders' discourse in andhra pradesh has remained focussed on irrigation in the last 6 years. all the top leaders have promised, during elections, that not an acre of agricultural land in the state would run dry if they were voted to power. why? the state already produces surpluses, much more rice (the staple foodgrain) than it requires. why doesn't any political leader make the promise that no toilet in any home (or future toilet, hopefully, because a majority of homes in the state don't have toilets) in the state would run dry?

those leaders (and most of their voters) would laugh at the comparison. the brahminical rule is: among problems, like among all animate/inanimate/abstract things, there are those which are more pure.


one reason why india needs manual scavengers

if every home in india has a wet latrine or toilet, it'd also mean that every home has access to piped water. if every home has piped water, it could also mean that there is less water for agriculture (from accessible surface water sources). less water for agriculture would mean less emphasis on such water-guzzling crops as rice. if there is less emphasis on such crops as rice and wheat, it'd also mean that such food- security enthusiasts as p.sainath and m.s.swaminathan would have to pack their bags and go home to obscure radio shows in america.

that could be one reason why the poor indian state can't ensure that every home in india has a wet latrine. it wants to follow the ancient prescription that the ruler/s should not harass poor brahmins.

more reasons later. meanwhile, please read this interesting post and discussion on manual scavenging.


on superior ignorance

i was foolish enough to join a facebook page which said 'telugu'... the administrator started a discussion and made the following comments, among others:

'People say their Dialect is being made fun of, YES your are speaking one of the Ancient and respected language in the world, which has its own grammar, and every sound and every word has a distinct meaning , and you are mixing it with Urdu... AND HINDI ,and call it a new language ? is there a grammar to this language? If yes please prove it and get yourself a new language, States in india were formed on the basis of language not dialects, do you know how many states should we break india into if we start dividing states on the basis of dialects? Please understand that because of 800 year old muslim rule , your language got influenced and corrupted, instead of correcting it now, they are suppoting it, it is almost supporting NIZAM period as golden era'


'i agree with you on one topic which is evolution of language from different phases, but here the case is you were forced to speak in hindi in tyrant Nizam rule, so it wasnt influenced but it was forced change and for a long time, ...now what im saying is, that rule is over , that phase is gone so time to correct certain words which arent part of telugu at all, meeru ee dialect ayina teesukondi, Srikakulam, vijayanagaram, godavari, raaylaseema, still you can prove the existence of grammar in those dialects,telugu basha goppadaname adi, telugu basha evovle ayina mana base grammar epudu maaraledu, apudu, epudu , ade base, ade rule, kaani ikkada complete different language took over more than 90% of the language , if we are to take that into telugu language than, im sorry .. i give up.'
that is telugu thandri, if you haven't recognized him by now. he owns the language, of course. i've heard similar lectures all through my life, but less so in the last two decades. but this particular lecturer went beyond the usual spiel and tried to find a solution for the language of the telanganis: purify it!

the racist belief that people of a certain region need to be 'corrected'-- you don't need to ponder much over how those kind of prejudices take shape in indian minds. is there any other society in the world which has so relentlessly pursued 'purity' in everything?

now here's a telangani who spouts some other kinds of biases mixed with very liberal generalizations:

Many people of my background grew up feeling defensive about the "crudities" of our dialect because of the manner in which they were run down or derided in the "popular culture" of Andhra Pradesh, defined by the more influential people from coastal districts.

Telugu cinema reflected this bias most blatantly as its heroes and heroines invariably and unmistakably spoke the coastal dialect. If the Telangana dialect made it to those films at all, it was heard from the mouths of villains or comedians.

Maa Bhoomi was, therefore, a liberating and cathartic experience for me, even if there was nothing "heroic" about the protagonist, a lowly peasant, who joins the underground armed struggle because he could anyway do nothing when the local zamindar forced his girlfriend into sex.

I could relate to the smallest of the Telangana peculiarities woven into its narrative: the manner in which the peasantry, for instance, was shown addressing their social superiors with the egalitarian nuvvu (equivalent to the Hindi tu), rather than with the honorific meeru (like aap) apt to be used in coastal Andhra.
let me see: i should feel great relief that the actor mehmood who caricatured the hyderabadi or telangani in dozens of movies is now dead. don't need to feel inferior anymore!

the first authority on telugu, and language in general, didn't think these words/phrases were telugu: 'samajayitalle? hau ra, gedaklilli vachinav? KOnaaki,podugaala..' it's quite evident to me that his knowledge of telangani dialects doesn't go beyond the borders of hyderabad. he isn't even aware that there are more than one dialect in telangana. his imagination is severely constricted by his own limted interaction with telanganis (which is a fair conjecture, i think, given his prejudices) and depends heavily on the even more severely constricted interpretation of dialect/s, culture/s of telangana by telugu film makers. and you'll notice that manoj mitta, the second authority on telugu too shares many of those traits: a limited understanding of dialects, regions, cultures, popular cinema. and a stunted sense of history. and the line '..when the local zamindar forced his girlfriend into sex'.. a casual, throwaway line. no reflection at all on how oppressive society of that age was. he reduces the general environment into a particular, 'local' incident.

and both experts assume the role of speaking for whole regions so very casually!

more later..

do-it-yourself history kit

lingams, vaishnavaite figures, a half parsvanatha. and there are probably also some buddhist influences in the temple complex, battlefield of ancient politics, where these nearly thousand year old reminders of telangana/telugu history (and also kannada history) were so callously stacked up.

one set of believers obviously built the structure first. and then another set of believers invaded the place, and selectively destroyed and rebuilt the place to celebrate their beliefs. and then another set of invaders emerged. and then another. and these battles happened long before the muslim rulers ever set foot in telangana. the disagreements, and the battles, as one can see, were quite fierce. now, trace the history of that mongrel shrine. who were the good guys and who were the bad guys?

the easy way out is to follow the path of the telangana separatists: pick up one figure and break the rest into shards with it. follow the example of the ancient invaders.


the method of telangana: some stalinism, some hindutva

it was said, when stalin stopped talking at any public event, you were not supposed to stop clapping. you're not supposed to stop clapping, ever. not until the guy beside you has stopped, who of course will only stop when the guy on his other side has stopped, and so on. we seem to be slowly but steadily moving towards the emergence of a similar oppressive environment in telangana.

nallamotu chakravarthy's crime was to write that it was okay not to clap, to argue that there are enough reasons not to clap, even.

we've the hindutva gangs-- rss, vhp, bajrang dal, ram sene etc-- on one side. and you think- and this is what the so-called 'liberal' mainstream media tries to project-- the maoists and random movements based around 'cultural sentiments' or 'aspirations' like the telangana separatist movement on the other side. that their methods and goals are different. are they really on the other side? both of them use sheer muscle, many times, to put forth their points of view. and to throttle dissenting voices. in the recent by-elections in telangana, everyone of the main contestants, in every constituency, were assigned a posse of nine gunmen each in the north telangana constituencies by the election commission. everyone, except the trs and bjp candidates needed them. why? because the maoists support separation and consider the trs an ally. and an ally's ally is also a friend, of course. so the bjp is now one of the maoists' closest friends in telangana, i suppose. there's no other side.

so it wasn't really surprising watching on television some of the most famous 'civil rights' activists in andhra pradesh trying hard to find excuses for the separatists' intolerance on monday. if they'd tied themselves up in a few more knots, they could have produced an excellent defense for the rss' attacks on some television channels' offices a few days ago. maybe they'd someday.

as i said, there's no other side. not in the stalinist worldview of the hindutva gangs or the maoists and the numerous groupie elements clinging to them, like the shiv sena and the trs.

the goondaism of the telangana separatists at fellow blogger nallamotu chakravarthy's book launch function needs to be condemned.
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